Saturday, September 01, 2018

A shoe fits

There you have it.
Just when I thought I had all that I needed to talk to you about what’s going on in the Church, everything changes, again.
Last weekend, while I was at dinner, my supposedly silenced phone began to shake and buzz as I was inundated with texts from friends all over the country. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó (vee-gah-NOH), from 2011 until 2016 the Apostolic Nuncio (Ambassador of the Pope) to the United States, had released his Testimony.  Like some teenager avoiding eye contact with his family, I sat there glued to my phone reading it as the dinner conversation rattled on without me. I was stunned.
I hope you all have read it too; if not, you can easily find all eleven pages of it online.  Read the actual document, not simply someone’s analysis of it.  It is clearly the work of a man who is deeply disturbed by what he has seen at the highest levels of the Church, and more deeply frustrated by the perduring corruption that he has encountered there, especially in the matter of misuse of power tangled up with sexual sin.
While I am not close to Abp. Viganó, I have had dinner with him.  He is a serious and sober man, a faithful and humble man, and I have no reason to suspect his motives for this unprecedented action, though I know he has suffered for striving to do what is right. In fact, I am grateful to him for speaking.
In his text, there are at least two categories of assertions he makes. The first category is the concrete facts; these are marked by names, dates, and circumstances, personal experiences of which documentary records exist.  There is no reason not to take these assertions seriously.
There is also a second category, less concrete, that you might call impressions.  These are less compelling, but by no means necessarily false.  
There might even be a third category, which I would call speculation. It would be informed and insightful speculation, but speculation nonetheless.   These assertions tend to be personal in nature, sometimes attributing motives, and without evidence given for them.  I think they weaken the significance of the concrete facts he gives.
There are places where his testimony directly contradicts the testimony of other prominent people.  In some cases, only one person can be telling the truth.  However, as you read along, and acquire a sense how a diplomat and churchman of his caliber communicates, you realize there is room for ambiguity or misunderstanding.  In those cases, Viganó’s honest recollection might authentically differ with the honest recollection of the other party.  Not every disagreement is a “lie.”  And as ever, it is important to read with some charity.
Even limiting ourselves to the concrete facts, we will find that his painful narrative fits smoothly into the gaps in our knowledge of what has happened over the past fifteen years, and plausibly gives a reason for many situations that were previously inexplicable.  
Having read it several times, and realizing the impact it is already having on the disposition within the Church toward the root cause of our current grievous trouble, I am filled with hope.  To receive this Testimony in the spirit it was intended, of filial devotion to the Church and selfless desire for her liberation from all who are harming her and us, is to see fulfilled the promise that Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.(Luke 12:3).  And for those of you who were wondering how we could ever find a way forward that would lead into the light, there you have it.
Monsignor Smith

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