Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who recently accused Pope Francis of covering up Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s alleged abuses, refuted claims that he concealed possible sexual misconduct.
Viganò released a statement Sunday in response to allegations that he quashed a 2014 investigation of then-Archbishop John Nienstedt’s possible sexual misconduct with seminarians and ordered evidence to be destroyed, saying that both accusations are false. Critics of his 11-page letter accusing Francis and at least 32 other high-ranking church officials of covering up or aiding abuse have seized on the allegations, but Viganò claims a Vatican investigation already proved the allegations against him to be spurious. (RELATED: Former Vatican Embassy Counselor: Archbishop Accusing The Pope ‘Said The Truth’)
“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,” Viganò wrote.
Viganò asserted that Father Dan Griffith, who wrote the initial memorandum accusing him of a cover-up, was not present at his meeting with Nienstedt and the two auxiliary bishops involved in the investigation, and that Vatican officials previously proved that the accusations against Viganò were false.
Viganò claimed that he received several affidavits containing allegations against Nienstedt during the meeting at the nunciature with Neinstedt and the two auxiliary bishops. The law firm conducting the investigation against Nienstedt, Greene Espel, collected those affidavits and, according to Viganò, wanted to investigate an allegation that Nienstedt had a homosexual affair with a Swiss Guard during his service in the Vatican without first hearing Nienstedt’s testimony concerning the accusation.
Viganò objected to their wish to proceed without hearing from Nienstedt and asserted that their private investigators had already “conducted an inquiry in an unbalanced and prosecutorial style.” He also noted that Greene Espel belonged to a group of lawyers called “Lawyers for All Families,” which had clashed with Nienstedt over his refusal to support gay marriage in Minnesota. Neinstadt, in fact, had a reputation for his hard-line stance against admitting openly gay men into the priesthood, same-sex marriage, and a “Dignity Mass” that was popular with LGBT people in his diocese.
Viganò told the bishops that he felt it only appropriate that they tell Greene Espel that they should hear from Neinstedt before proceeding. They accepted his suggestion, according to Viganò, but then sent him a signed letter the next day “falsely asserting that I had suggested the investigation be stopped.”
Viganò said that while he did not order evidence to be destroyed, he did order one of the auxiliary bishops to remove from the computer and archdiocesan archives the letter accusing him of ordering the investigation to be stopped in order to protect his name and the pope from what he said were false accusations.
A Vatican investigation into Viganò’s conduct, prompted by the 2016 New York Times story on Griffith’s memo, revealed that Viganò had in fact acted correctly.
“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,” Viganò wrote.
“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,” he added.
Rumors of the alleged cover-up nevertheless remain in part, according to Viganò, because the Vatican Press did not issue a statement correcting the New York Times story and in part because his repeated requests for Neinstedt’s successors to correct the Griffith memo have gone unanswered.
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