Mark Silk: The Charge Against Archbishop Viganò Must Now Be Investigated

As everyone not living in a total news blackout knows by now, the former papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, has issued a call for Pope Francis to resign his office, on the grounds that the pontiff knew (because Viganò says he told him) about the sexual sins of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and did nothing about it (until he did).

The call came in the form of a long letter accusing an array of high-ranking prelates (mostly but not exclusively progressives associated with Francis) of protecting clerical abusers and covering up evidence of their wrongdoing.

Viganò is a well-known traditionalist ideologue and Francis critic, but that in itself is not sufficient reason for calling his credibility into question.

Sufficient reason would be that in 2014 Viganò himself, as nuncio, put a stop to the investigation of the then archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, John Nienstedt, who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. On Sunday, Viganò issued a statement denying that he he did anything of the sort.

The basis for the charge against him is a July 7, 2014 memorandum on the Nienstedt investigation written by Dan Griffith, a priest and canon lawyer who managed the investigation as the archdiocese’s delegate for safe environment. The 11-page, single-spaced document was sent to the archdiocese’s two auxiliary bishops — Lee A. Piché, who had overall responsibility for the investigation, and Andrew Cozzens — shortly after the two lawyers hired to investigate Nienstedt’s behavior tendered their resignations.

Griffith, profoundly upset, tells the story of how the investigation was shut down. Briefly, the lawyers had come up with a large amount of compelling evidence that Nienstedt had been abusing seminarians and engaging in flamboyant sexual activity for many years. The two auxiliary bishops and other clergy involved in the investigation reached a consensus that Nienstedt would have to resign.

Piché and Cozzens then flew to Washington with Nienstedt to meet with the nuncio to reach a “pastoral resolution”; i.e. a smooth resignation. Although they called Griffith after the meeting to say that such a resolution was in the offing, a subsequent one-on-one between Nienstedt and Viganò led to the nuncio’s telling the bishops that he didn’t think the allegations were that serious, and that the investigation should be halted.

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Source: Religion News Service