Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register
Diane Montagna Diane Montagna Follow Diane

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Viganò issues new statement, documents to clear his name of false charges

Diane Montagna Diane Montagna Follow Diane

ROME, August 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, whose extraordinary testimony implicating Pope Francis and several senior prelates in covering up Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s alleged sexual abuse of seminarians and priests, today issued a new written statement, rejecting as “false” certain accusations that are now being used to discredit him. 

Archbishop Viganò has also released supporting documents to prove his innocence.

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The accusations date back to a 2016 New York Times report, alleging that, as U.S. Nuncio, Viganò “quashed” an independent investigation into sexual misconduct on the part of Archbishop John Nienstedt, who was found innocent by police authorities. 

The report specifically alleges that, during an April 2014 meeting at the Nunciature in Washington D.C., Viganò ordered two auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to halt the investigation into Nienstedt. The report further alleges that Viganò “ordered church officials to destroy a letter they wrote to him protesting the decision.”

The New York Times based its report on a memorandum written by Father Dan Griffith, then-liaison to the lawyers conducting the inquiry, and delegate for the protection of minors in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Griffith wrote that the order to call off the investigation and destroy evidence amounted to “a good old fashioned cover-up to preserve power and avoid scandal,” the New York Times said.

These allegations against the former U.S. Nuncio have now resurfaced, and are being used to discredit or call into question the credibility of his testimony implicating Pope Francis and several senior prelates in the McCarrick abuse cover-up.

But in his two-page written statement, dated August 26, 2018 and published here below, Archbishop Viganò insists these accusations are “false,” presents his account of the events associated with the allegations, and provides convincing evidence, based on official documentation (including several letters here below), to prove his innocence. 

Vigano’s statement and the supporting documents also raise questions about why the Vatican has never publicly cleared his name.

What really happened?

In his written statement, Archbishop Viganò recounts that he met with Archbishop Neinstedt and two Auxiliary Bishops — Mons. Lee A. Piché and Mons. Andrew Cozzens — on April 12, 2014, at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C., to discuss the ongoing investigation into the Archbishop. Father Griffith, he notes, was not present.

At that meeting, several affidavits were presented to him, one alleging that Nienstedt had “had an affair with a Swiss Guard during his service in the Vatican some twenty years prior.”

Viganò explains that “these affidavits were collected by the firm, Greene Espel, who was retained by Father Griffith on behalf of the Archdiocese to investigate Archbishop Nienstedt.” He adds that the firm “belongs to the group ‘Lawyers for All Families,’ who fought against Archbishop Nienstedt over the approval of same-sex marriage in the State of Minnesota.”

The former U.S. Nuncio then notes: “Private investigators from the Greene Espel firm had conducted an inquiry in an unbalanced and prosecutorial style, and now wanted immediately to extend their investigation to the Pontifical Swiss Guard, without first hearing Archbishop Nienstedt.”

According to Viganò, at a certain moment in the meeting, he suggested that the bishops “tell the Greene Espel lawyers that it appeared to me appropriate that Archbishop Nienstedt be heard before taking this step – audiatur et altera pars – which they had not yet done. The bishops accepted my suggestion,” he writes. 

After the meeting, Bishop Piché phoned Father Griffith from the airport, saying the meeting was positive, and there was promise of a good resolution on the horizon.

Despite this, the following morning, Archbishop Viganò says he received a letter at the Nunciature signed by the two Auxiliary Bishops, “falsely asserting” that he “had suggested the investigation be stopped.”

In comments to LifeSite, Viganò said that, immediately after reading the letter, he called Bishop Pichè and said: “What is this? I never said to stop the investigation. I proposed that it would be appropriate to first interrogate the Archbishop. Please remove the letter from the computer and from the archdiocesan archives.”

In his written statement, Viganò attests:

“I never told anyone that Greene Espel should stop the inquiry, and I never ordered any document to be destroyed. Any statement to the contrary is false. However, I did instruct one of the auxiliary bishops, Lee A. Piché, to remove from the computer and the archdiocesan archives the letter falsely asserting that I had suggested the investigation be halted. I insisted on this not only to protect my name, but also that of the Nunciature and the Holy Father who would be unnecessarily harmed by having a false statement used against the Church.”

In comments to LifeSite, Viganò said the letter “distorted” what he had said in the meeting, and put him and the U.S. Nunciature in a “very dangerous situation.” He said he was also “very concerned about protecting the Pope,” as they had put into the archives something that was “false and dangerous.”

After this, Viganò said he “didn’t hear anything,” until the November USCCB general meeting in Baltimore, and he “didn’t know if anything had been done.” 

At the USCCB assembly, Viganò said the two auxiliary bishops, Pichè and Cozzens, presented him with a report, telling him they had also given it to Cardianal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, during a recent visit to Rome. 

Archbishop Viganò reviewed the report in their presence, and saw that “it still contained the false statement.” He therefore instructed Piché and Cozzens to write to Cadinal Ouellet, at the Congregation of Bishops in Rome, to have the statement corrected, and said he was going to do the same. 

LifeSite has obtained both of these letters. The letter from the two auxiliary bishops to Cardinal Ouellet may be viewed here, and Archbishop Viganò’s letter to the Cardinal may be viewed here.

Segueing in his statement to 2016, Viganò writes: “The very day the news appeared in the New York Times, on July 21, 2016, the Holy Father asked Cardinal Parolin to phone the Nuncio in Washington, D.C. (Christophe Pierre), ordering that an investigation into my conduct be opened immediately, so that I could be reported to the tribunal in charge of judging abuse cover-up by bishops.”

That same day, he adds, “I informed the Vatican Press Office in the persons of Father Lombardi and Mr. Greg Burke. With the authorization of the Substitute of the Secretary of State, then-Archbishop Becciu, Mr. Jeffrey Lena – an American lawyer working for the Holy See – went to the Congregation for Bishops where he found documents proving that my conduct had been absolutely correct.” 

These documents include the letter from the two auxialiary bishops to Cardinal Ouellet requesting the correction.

Viganò further attests that, “Mr. Lena handed a written report exonerating me to the Holy Father. In spite of this, the Vatican Press Office did not deem it necessary to release a statement refuting the New York Times article,” he says.

He also notes that, when the investigation ordered by Pope Francis was completed, “the Nunciature also responded to Cardinal Parolin with a detailed report, which restored the truth and demonstrated that my conduct had been absolutely correct.” 

“This report is found in the Vatican Secretariat of State and at the Nunciature in Washington, D.C,” he writes. 

The former U.S. Nuncio concludes, saying: “On January 28, 2017, I wrote to both Archbishop Pierre and Archbishop Hebda (who had succeeded Nienstedt), asking them to publicly correct the Griffith memorandum. In spite of repeated emails and phone calls, I never heard back from them.” A follow-up email, dated January 21, 2018, detailing Viganò’s repeated attempts to contact Hebda, may be viewed here.

Who made the mistake? Was it Father Griffith? Or did he write his memorandum in good faith based on what he thought had happened? This is unknown, but Griffith’s actions are suspect, as he chose a group of lawyers to investigate Archbishop Neinstedt who were fighting against him in the Minnesota gay-marriage referendum. 

Here below we pubish Archbishop Vigano’s written statement. Emphasis not added.

***

Statement by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò regarding the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis

Accusations against my person appeared in the media – in July 2016, when I had already left my mission in Washington, D.C. – following the publication of a memorandum written by Father Dan Griffith, the then delegate for the protection of minors in the Archdiocese.

These accusations – alleging that I ordered the two Auxiliary Bishops of Minneapolis to close the investigation into the life of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt – are false.

Father Griffith was not present during my meeting at the Nunciature with the Archbishop and the two Auxiliaries on April 12, 2014, during which several affidavits containing accusations against Archbishop Nienstedt were handed to me.

These affidavits were collected by the firm, Greene Espel, who was retained by Father Griffith on behalf of the Archdiocese to investigate Archbishop Nienstedt. This firm belongs to the group “Lawyers for All Families,” who fought against Archbishop Nienstedt over the approval of same-sex marriage in the State of Minnesota.

In one of these affidavits, it was claimed that Archbishop Nienstedt had had an affair with a Swiss Guard during his service in the Vatican some twenty years prior.

Private investigators from the Greene Espel firm had conducted an inquiry in an unbalanced and prosecutorial style, and now wanted immediately to extend their investigation to the Pontifical Swiss Guard, without first hearing Archbishop Nienstedt.

I suggested to the bishops who came to the Nunciature on April 12, 2014, that they tell the Greene Espel lawyers that it appeared to me appropriate that Archbishop Nienstedt be heard before taking this step – audiatur et altera pars – which they had not yet done. The bishops accepted my suggestion.

But the following day, I received a letter signed by the two auxiliaries, falsely asserting that I had suggested the investigation be stopped. 

I never told anyone that Greene Espel should stop the inquiry, and I never ordered any document to be destroyed. Any statement to the contrary is false.

However, I did instruct one of the auxiliary bishops, Lee A. Piché, to remove from the computer and the archdiocesan archives the letter falsely asserting that I had suggested the investigation be halted. I insisted on this not only to protect my name, but also that of the Nunciature and the Holy Father who would be unnecessarily harmed by having a false statement used against the Church.

The very day the news appeared in the New York Times, on July 21, 2016, the Holy Father asked Cardinal Parolin to phone the Nuncio in Washington, D.C. (Christophe Pierre), ordering that an investigation into my conduct be opened immediately, so that I could be reported to the tribunal in charge of judging abuse cover-up by bishops.

I informed the Vatican Press Office in the persons of Father Lombardi and Mr. Greg Burke. With the authorization of the Substitute of the Secretary of State, then-Archbishop Becciu, Mr. Jeffrey Lena – an American lawyer working for the Holy See – went to the Congregation for Bishops where he found documents proving that my conduct had been absolutely correct.

Mr. Lena handed a written report exonerating me to the Holy Father. In spite of this, the Vatican Press Office did not deem it necessary to release a statement refuting the New York Times article.

The Nunciature also responded to Cardinal Parolin with a detailed report, which restored the truth and demonstrated that my conduct had been absolutely correct.

This report is found in the Vatican Secretariat of State and at the Nunciature in Washington, DC.

On January 28, 2017, I wrote to both Archbishop Pierre and Archbishop Hebda (who had succeeded Nienstedt), asking them to publicly correct the Griffith memorandum. In spite of repeated emails and phone calls, I never heard back from them. 

August 26, 2018

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