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What Did Pope Francis Know About Cardinal McCarrick -- And When Did He Know It?

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 26, 2018: Thanks, in part, to disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, 77, the Vatican's top diplomat in the United States between 2011 and 2016, has posted a 7,000-word open letter online in Italian.

Diane Montagna of the conservative Catholic website LifeSite News has translated Vigano's online letter into English:

Cardinal McCarrick led the Washington, D.C., diocese from 2000 to 2006. On July 28, 2018, he was forced by Pope Francis to renounce his position in the College of Cardinals. At the time, it appeared that Pope Francis had taken action against McCarrick after the New York Times and other news outlets had published accounts of the alleged abuse and a church investigation had deemed credible that he had abused a minor. But what did Pope Francis know about Cardinal McCarrick before then -- and when did he know it?

Now, within the context of the Roman Catholic Church today, we can think of practicing Catholics as being on a spectrum, so to speak, with a mid-point. Practicing Catholics who tend to be on the conservative side of the mid-point can be referred to as traditionalist Catholics.

In general, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) represents a watershed in the Roman Catholic Church. Practicing Catholics today who are on the liberal side of the mid-point tend to embrace the spirit of Vatican II. But traditionalist Catholics today tend not to.

The practicing Catholic James Carroll would be an example of one person on the liberal side of the mid-point. For further discussion of him and his critique of Pope Francis and Roman Catholicism, see my OEN article "James Carroll's Critique of Roman Catholicism's Ethic of Sex":

In that op-ed commentary, I mention how the American Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray (1904-1967) weaponized certain terminology used by the Canadian Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984): the terminology about the classicist worldview v. historical-mindedness in Catholic theological thought. In general, Murray sees Vatican II as rejecting the classicist worldview in Catholic theological thought -- and embracing historical-mindedness.

But traditionalist Catholics cling to the classicist worldview in Catholic theological thought -- and resist historical-mindedness.

In Murray's posthumously published book Bridging the Sacred and the Secular, edited by J. Leon Hooper, S.J. (Georgetown University Press, 1994), he discusses certainty as a key characteristic of the classicist worldview (pages 336-337). But if alleged certainty is a key characteristic of the classicist worldview, what, then, for Murray, is the acceptable alternative to certainty when one embraces historical-mindedness? Not certainty, but what? What one judges to be perceptive, intelligent, reasonable, and responsible.

But traditionalist Catholics do not want to pivot from the classicist worldview to Catholic theological thought to historical-mindedness.

Perhaps an analogy is in order here. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade in 1973 that abortion in the first trimester would be legalized. But that ruling has been a hot-button issue to this day -- thanks, in part, to the anti-abortion zealotry prompted by the American bishops and their priests.

For traditionalist Catholics to this day, Vatican II is still a hot-button issue, and their zealotry against the spirit of Vatican II tends to be strong and fierce. Rightly or wrongly, they tend to see Pope Francis as embodying the spirit of Vatican II. In certain ways, he may. However, even though I see Pope Francis as a temperamentally conservative man, I do not see him as a traditionalist Catholic. If he is not exactly equipoised at the mid-point of the spectrum of practicing Catholics, he is only a tiny wee bit on the liberal side of the mid-point -- or, perhaps more accurately, he is only selectively on the liberal side of the mid-point.

In any event, Vigano is a traditionalist Roman Catholic who is critical of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope. Vigano refers to "the deviated wing of the Society of Jesus," which, he claims, "unfortunately today [includes] a majority [of Jesuits]." For Vigano, the Jesuits today in "the deviated wing of the Society of Jesus" have deviated from the church's traditionalist stance against homosexual practices. Vigano mentions "Father James Martin, S.J." as one example. However, in Vigano's view, it is not just Jesuits who have deviated from the church's traditionalist stance against homosexual practices -- so have certain bishops and even certain Vatican officials.

Pope Francis removed Archbishop Vigano from his position as nuncio to the United States in 2016 -- after Vigano had helped arrange Kim Davis' face time with the pope during his trip to the United States. Kim Davis was the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. No doubt this and other dirt about Vigano will be surfacing, or re-surfacing, as his explosive letter is discussed further in the near future.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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