U.S. Roots for Vigano, the Archbishop Who Opposes Corruption

By Paolo Mastrolilli
Vatican Insider
May 29, 2012

Monsignor Vigano

“He is a man who is not afraid to speak the truth and not afraid to point out areas that need reform in the church.” These were the words of praise of new cardinal Timothy Dolan for the Nuncio to the United States Carlo Maria Vigano, published in the New York Times last February. This may help understand how the crisis in the Vatican is viewed abroad and could perhaps shed light on how the former secretary general of the Governorate is feeling. According to the Americans, Vigano is a reformer who was able to foresee the storm ahead. He can therefore feel redeemed, even if not happy, for the developments of the last few weeks and does not need to say anything more, because events seem to follow his predictions.

At the beginning of last year Vigano, who was mainly in charge of the financial management of the Vatican City State wrote two letters to the Pope, denouncing instances of corruption. In October he was removed and appointed Nuncio to the U.S.. When his letters were published, the Vatican leadership issued a statement dismissing his claims.

In his new home in Massachusetts Avenue, Vigano has chosen to keep to himself. But after being somewhat shy at the beginning, he gained confidence in his new role of managing diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the United States, between the American bishops and Rome and also in his very delicate task of pointing out suitable candidates for Episcopal Sees. The trust he has been shown is the result of the good relations he has built with American bishops, who have urged him on many occasions to become the leader of a worldwide reform of the Church.

Vigano is particularly close to Dolan, who is Archbishop of New York but also President of the American Episcopal Conference and has often been singled out as a potential successor to the Pope. In an interview with John Allen for the National Catholic Reporter, in February, when asked if Vigano could still be effective Dolan said: “Yes, yes, yes, for a number of reasons. First of all, we American bishops usually divide by ten any gossip that we hear from the Vatican. We don’t know how accurate it is, and most of the time we turn past that and go to the sports page. Number two, in the short time he’s been in the States, we’ve grown to love him. I mean that sincerely. He stood before us in November, and even back then some of this gossip was hovering over him. We knew that. He stood up in front of us, in utter sincerity, obviously rather shy, and said, ‘Brothers, I am honoured to be here. I’m happy to be here. I consider it an honour, and your welcome has only given me more encouragement.” Even in the first three months, we’ve grown to appreciate his sincerity and humility. For me personally, and I’ve spoken to quite a few bishops about it, I think that if anything, this enhances his role. One must bear in mind that for us bishops, the Nuncio is not just the representative of the Holy See to the United States. One of his major jobs is to communicate our sentiments and observations to Vatican leaders. This, in a way, enhances his credibility as someone who does not look upon the internal workings of the Holy See with rose-coloured glasses, but is well aware of difficulties there. In a way, I think it enhances his credibility as somebody who wants to constantly hold the church, both the Holy See and the church in the United States, to the highest standards of fidelity to the gospel. When that doesn’t happen, he’s not afraid to speak out about it, even to his own detriment.” Dolan had spoken of this with George, his counterpart in Chicago, confirming the Nuncio’s ability to objectively report the situation in America to Rome, adding that he had asked Vigano if he saw his diplomatic post as a consolation prize, to which Vigano apparently answered: ‘How can anybody think a transfer to the United States is a demotion?’

American bishops need him for political reasons. They are trying to challenge Obama on contraception and social matters in this electoral year. Also on an economic level, they are trying to make ends meet after the crisis created by the paedophilia scandal. He sees their support as encouraging and as a sign that the new leadership wants to change things. When his letters were published, they bore the stamp of the Secretariat of State, where they would have been forwarded by the Pope. This shows that the power struggle is happening within the Secretariat of State itself. Vigano wrote the letters with the intention of making confidential accusations and others used them to provoke the current crisis that threatens the leadership of the Holy See. He does not need to say anything else, since events prove he was right, at least as far the atmosphere in the Vatican was concerned, if not in the details of the accusations.

A new occasion for a public confrontation may come in mid June when the American Episcopal Conference will hold its Spring summit in Atlanta, the first meeting of top leaders since the leaked document scandal exploded in the Vatican. Dolan will obviously attend, as President, as will all the other American bishops. The Conference confirmed their support to the Nuncio: “His excellency the Archbishop Vigano is obviously invited and we hope he is able to attend.”








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