The Pope responds about the Viganò Testimony. What he said and what he, maybe, really said.

On the airplane returning to Rome from Ireland, the Pope responded with a non-response to a question from the press about the Testimony issued by Archbp. Carlo Maria Viganò.

What he said…  watch the body language with the words.

“Read the statement carefully yourselves and make your own judgment.”

“I am not going to say a word about this.” (And yet here we are.)

“I believe that the statement speaks for itself, and you all have sufficient journalistic ability to draw conclusions.”

It is an act of trust. When a little time goes by, and you have drawn conclusions, perhaps I will speak about it, but I would like your professional maturity to do this work. It will do you all good, really.

In my cynicism – please forgive me for being a little cynical right now? – what the Pope said is along the lines of:

“You, the press, have been on my side till now. If you think about it for a while, you should still be on my side. If you weigh the alternatives you will remember that I am your guy.”

This is not a happy man.  But that’s not much of a conclusion.   Listen to, however, what he is trying to say.

Here is what I think he said, without saying it.

The Pope is calling on the press to do the necessary work to make this go away.

I dunno. Have I read that wrong? Sincerely… do you get something else from that?

I don’t like these airplane pressers.  Please please please stop doing them.

And may I just add that Greg Burke has the worst job in the world?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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This entry was posted in Clerical Sexual Abuse, Francis, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Mallu Jack says:

    These words make more urgent the same Pope’s appeal in his letter to the People of God: “I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command.”

  2. Malta says:

    But this pope is happy to tell the press on his airplane rides, “Who am I to judge,” re: homosexuality.

  3. HezzerK says:

    My interpretation of Holy Father’s statement…
    “you the press, you go and interpret and spin Viganò’s words. If I don’t like the direction you spin them, I will correct you.”

  4. Lurker 59 says:

    One of the things that I really appreciated about Pope Benedict XVI is that he always took his time in considering a question before answering — he always thought things through. He would never do an airplane presser.

    I watched with the audio off and without reading the words, then with the words — yes I would agree with Fr. Z’s assessment.

    Regardless, it seems that the course of action is to slow things down and let those upset grow frustrated with the lack of action. Then some waving of hands and moving on to the current issue of the zeitgeist.

    The media should do their jobs and we can help the media to do their jobs by encouraging others who have been abused or who know the “open secrets” to start to tell their stories.

  5. Spinmamma says:

    The response was, as usual, ambiguous. On the surface it seems to be saying the Archbishop’s letter is true and the journalists can read its plain language for themselves. But, of course, the fact he refused to answer “yes or no” questions, and where the necessary documents and witnesses for an actual investigation (by journalists or anyone else) reside in or are under the control of the Vatican, he can’t possibly expect his words to be taken that the journalists should do their own investigation. The “act of trust” language could be interpreted as directed at the journalists, but it could also mean the Pope’s reinstatement of McCarrick was an act of trust–trust that McCarrick was truly repentant. I wish that the hierarchy, as we prayed at Mass tonight, would be truthful, publicly acknowledge their terrible sins, and work toward open justice and healing of the Church and their victims.

  6. Geoffrey says:

    Wow. He couldn’t even respond to the second / follow-up question, about when he first heard about Cardinal McCarrick’s wicked shenanigans. It would have been easy to say “when everyone did” or something like that. Yikes…

  7. jgrigorian says:

    Are the sheep entitled to know the truth from of vicar of christ? The pope’s reply is to let the press decide the issue.

  8. jgrigorian says:

    Correction – from the vicar

  9. maternalView says:

    Um. What was that I just watched?

    It made no sense.

  10. Antonin says:

    I actually think this reply is simple. The pope is saying that letter written by the Cardinal speaks for itself. The only issue is how he needs to respond and he wants some time and space to do so, I think he is asking the press for space. He is asking them to parse the statement and it is pretty difficult to parse it as it lays out the chronology accurately.

    He has lost credibility and has to think seriously about resignation – or he might actually think this story, with the passage of time will just fade away

  11. Antonin says:


    He can’t say when everyone else did because he knew WELL BEFORE everyone else did and therinnlies the problem ….to put it in crass terms he has been completely busted …they may try to spin this and say well he took action but the only reason he did was because the press.,,,the secular press broke it

  12. Cradle Catholic says:

    Ha! Rorate Caeli has a poll to see What teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will Francis alter this week to distract from Viganò statement?

    The choices are: homosexuality, female ordination or contraception.

  13. JamesA says:

    Isn’t it supremely ironic that this man said, on another airplane no less, that he could find no evidence of a “gay lobby” in the Church ? When it appears that it was indeed a gay lobby that brought about his election, with his collusion ?
    I won’t try to decipher what he was saying, but I agree that the press does indeed needs to do its job : dig and investigate into who knew what, and when, and why they did nothing. But will they ?
    God bless and preserve Archbishop Viganò. Kyrie, eleison !

  14. DeGaulle says:

    The headline on the internet issue of the Irish Independent is:

    “I am not going to say a word about this”.

    It reads like someone with something to hide, someone who wishes to consult his lawyers. We may be nearing the time that the juicy prospect of going for the head of a pope by the international media outweighs his other attractions for them.

  15. Pingback: Pope: ‘I Will Not Say a Single Word’ About Allegations of McCarrick Cover-Up |

  16. Gab says:

    As a Pope, he makes for a great politician.

  17. s i says:

    He is hiding something, therefore “no answer” and”you decide”. Ridiculous. His non-answer makes him look 110% guilty.

  18. Mallu Jack says:

    The national catholic reporter ran a headline in July, “Conservatives distort McCarrick scandal to attack Francis”.
    That has aged well.

  19. Kathleen10 says:

    Think about it = Remember all I’ve done for you and start covering for me

    We never wanted the first pope emeritus but we demand a second. He won’t want to go, but he must. The bishops and Cardinals need to finally man up and make it happen. We do need to pray and pray, because if another destroyer gets elected it will blow up the church. Then, party’s over for all of them. They ought to encourage him not to continue to drag the church through any more.
    Fr. Z. God bless you, you don’t realize your contribution, your great work in God’s vineyard. Aging does bring regret, I can vouch. We see too clearly where we could have done so much better. Accepting that with resignation is also part of it. Oh what we would do if we could do things over! Or not do! We just move on and give our sorrow and regrets to God, Who understands all.
    These are tough times, we’re all together though. Hang in there. :)

  20. JabbaPapa says:

    Mallu Jack, I notice the fine use of the adjective “deplorable” in a prominent location in that article.

  21. Fr. Timothy Ferguson says:

    From the Regulae Iuris, #43: Qui tacit consentire videtur.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  22. Benedict Joseph says:

    You are not wrong and it could not speak more poorly of the individual.
    The press is covering for him. The irony of it — and does it not say it all? When they circle the wagons for you the verdict is in. The papacy defended against complicity in sexual abuse and misconduct and John McCain canonized all in one weekend.
    We live in perfectly transparent times. The press is covering for him. The irony of it — and does it not say it all? He is a pawn of the left. When they circle the wagons for you the verdict is in. The papacy defended against complicity in sexual abuse and misconduct and John McCain canonized all in one weekend.
    We live in perfectly transparent times. The press is covering for him. The irony of it — and does it not say it all? He is a pawn of the left. When they circle the wagons for you the verdict is in. The papacy defended against complicity in sexual abuse and misconduct and John McCain canonized all in one weekend.
    We live in perfectly transparent times. He is a pawn of the secular left.
    You know an individual by their friends.

  23. JabbaPapa says:

    Pursuant to the Pope’s other comments about the need for psychiatric care for youths who are afflicted with homosexual urges, Francis now finds himself being attacked by the gay lobby for denouncing homosexuality, whilst simultaneously being attacked by Faithful Catholics for protecting the gay lobby in the Church.

    hmmmmmm, James Martin SJ must be so proud of all these bridges he’s building …

  24. Basa says:

    The Catholic Church should get rid of this sect and its gurus as soon as possible.

  25. rosula says:

    God knows the truth. He can’t be fooled. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul (Matthew 16:26)?”

  26. robtbrown says:

    The response of the Pope of Anti-clericalism is an almost perfect example of clericalism.

  27. Unwilling says:


  28. Chrissin says:

    He is so abstruse. What does “It is an act of trust” refer to? Giving it to the press to draw their own conclusions?
    Anyway…I was really peeved by his throwing out some ‘red meat’ in the form of the evil sisters taking babies from mothers, giving them away, and calling either their getting pregnant or their desire to find their children ( or vice versa) a mortal sin. These ‘Magdalen Laundries’ & ‘Philomena’ stories have been discredited many times over, but they are pulled out over & over again as if they are established fact to stir up a false sense of injustice. The MacAleese Report,1000 pages of it, debunked the myth, but no one paid it any mind…Couldn’t believe he did that! His face looked like it was burning while he loosed that monster. That’s a bad man…:(

  29. Jacques says:

    I read elsewhere that there already was a strong clue that Francis was well aware of Mc Carrick’s turpitudes when the Pope made a bad joke about the cardinal’s longevity, telling him: “Satan needs much time preparing a place for you into Hell”.

    [Yes. That was at Fishwrap by ultra-lib David Gibson of RNS. That 2014 piece recognized that McCarrick had been sidelined by Benedict XVI and brought back out, along with Kasper, by Francis. That quote, in the article: “I guess the Lord isn’t done with me yet,” [McCarrick] told the pope. “Or the devil doesn’t have your accommodations ready!” Francis shot back with a laugh.]

  30. I respect the “office of the Pope”, but I have no respect for the office holder at this time. He needs to vacate the office asap!

  31. MaHrad says:

    It’s very ambiguous (typical of Pope Francis), but when I first read (didn’t watch until now) the interview, my first thought was the no comment meaning guilty, but my next fear was because of the ambiguity, he’ll gladly let the press spin it for him and it’ll all get swept under the rug. But now watching the body language, I agree with Fr. Z that he does not look like a happy man, making me lean even more towards guilty. I just hope enough people can see through his ambiguity and are vocal enough about it.

  32. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    If it was false, it would be simple to categorically deny the allegations on record. There would be nothing for Francis to lose and everything to gain by simply saying the Truth if Viganò was giving false testimony. Period.

    So far I have seen nothing but ad hominem by the usual suspects toward Vigano and attempts to make the issue into a “culture war.” I’ve seen no specific refutations.

    Card Burke and Bishop of Tyler have provided the only rational responses: Viganò is a credible witness who would have reasonable access to the information he claims to report, let’s take him seriously and evaluate the data. Even if Viganò were to have “conservative spin” to what he reports, the data points themselves would still be damning.

    Frankly, and at this point I dont expect anything more from Papa Frank, I found Francis’s airplane response quite disturbing in its incoherence, tangientiality, essentially trying to shift the burden of proof onto the journalists. This is how a disturbed and guilty mind talks, by assuming the worst in the person asking the questions and blaming them (the most coherent thing he said was claiming the journalists hadn’t taken the time to read the 11 pages and form their own conclusions prior to asking him questions). He was absolutely incapable of engaging the journalists on this issue. Saying “just trust me” and “let’s not talk about this” is the Olympian height of hypocritical clericalism.

    Previously, in charity, I would give the Pope in his person the benefit of doubt on this. After Daneels, Barros, Don Mercedes, Maradiaga, etc, etc, etc, etc…I’m done. The Pope has been crooked on this issue numerous times, so it is unclear to me why it would be wise to give him benefit of doubt on McCarrick.

    Perhaps the most disturbing part of Viganò’s testimony is the allegation that Cupich, McElroy, Tobin and their ilk were essentially hand selected by a KNOWN-to-Francis abuser McCarrick and were appointed to important US archdioceses outside the Nunciature vetting system that exists to ensure we get good men as bishops.

  33. FN says:

    He knows the game is up. And he’s too good a man, even now, to tell a bald-faced lie. Hence non-response.

  34. veritas vincit says:

    The kindest interpretation I can think of is that the Holy Father is on a trip on that famous river in Egypt, “De Nile” (denial).

  35. Barnacle says:

    I understand that if a priest is accused of sexual abuse, he is immediately removed from public functions to await his canonical judgement, and is only reinstated if the accusations are found to be false. The reason is to protect the past and potential victims while his assessment continues. In other words, the process errs on the side of caution. The priest, if innocent, accepts the suspension obediently and offers up his suffering, looking forward to his vindication. As Pope Francis has been accused, at such a high level, of collusion, or cover-up, and/or even just poor judgement, then he should immediately call for the situation to be investigated, and he should submit himself without question to the canonical process. This response would show that he understood the gravity of the accusations, would demonstrate his respect for the real and potential victims and would demonstrate his respect for the processes of canonical investigation and assessment, on which he himself has entirely relied in the assessment of other people. If he is innocent, then what has he to fear? Submitting himself to the Court of Journalistic Opinion is a disingenuous sleight of hand and a desperate delaying action, which at least some of the journalists will see through, I hope. Cleverly, he has pandered to their sense of self-importance, and this may cloud the better judgement of some of them; however this ploy will not make the problem go away. I pray there are enough cardinals, bishops, and canon lawyers who will put in place the correct procedure to deal with this thorny problem.

  36. roma247 says:

    The main question here is very simple.

    Is this the response of a man who is meek and humble of heart, a true shepherd?

    Or is it the response of a hireling, who flieth, because he is a hireling, and hath no care for the sheep?

    “But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth: and the wolf catcheth, and scattereth the sheep.”

    God will judge this man. It is our job now to fast and pray very hard. May God’s Will be done.

  37. LarryW2LJ says:

    It would appear that God is taking the faithful on a roller coaster ride. I’d advise everyone to fasten their lap belts and keep their hands inside the car – it would appear the ride is going to get even bumpier than it has been.

  38. Unwilling says:

    …or maybe this “handing off” is an instance of his general skepticism about expectations of objective truth. Maybe he thinks (the Press and) we should not worry about the rules of Doctors of Logic — there is no rigid fact of the matter. But each of us enter into a period of questioning our consciences for discernment and then do (believe) what seems right in our hearts. “It will be good for us.”

  39. acardnal says:

    Prediction: The Pope is not going to resign over the sex abuse issues.

  40. Southern Catholic says:

    It is interesting that this is one of the only times that Pope Francis has not answered a question on his plane ride.

  41. This “response” was very frustrating. But the Holy Father said, reach your own conclusion. so it seems all the faithful are invited to do so, right?

    Ok, here are my thoughts:

    1. There may be matters referenced by Vigano’s indictment about which the pope has uncertain knowlege, either because he wasn’t directly involved, or he was distracted or gave insufficient attention at the time. So it is reasonable For him to think, “I need to be careful, or else I will give a muddled answer and make things worse.” The pope’s response could have been an attempt at saying that, but still, it comes off pretty highhanded.

    2. Surely the pope knows the truth about his own words and actions. And if he knows he is utterly innocent, why not say so? The most charitable explanation I can think of is that he would rather let others savage Vigano.

    3. It is also possible that some of what the pope was quoted as saying were flip, thoughtless quips, which he doesn’t recall, but suspects he may have said, or something similar. I am given to flip remarks, even at the wrong moment, and I have regretted it. I have been guilty of being less attentive at grave moments than I ought to have been. If this is the case, the pope dares not flatly deny what is claimed, while he may believe or hope that the truth is not as bad as it is presented.

    4. I cannot rule out the thesis that the pope wonders what else is out there. If he simply denies the charge, what would follow? So his non response makes logical sense. He is avoiding a trap.

    5. He knows there is a big mess here, he can’t exculpate himself, even if the facts are not as bad as they may seem, so he figures, let’s ride this out for awhile, and give a fuller response later. this dovetails with just hoping he can ride it out. His critics may self destruct. Events may intervene.

    6. Perhaps the Holy Father wants to come clean, but wants to do it with some care. If so, I can understand that.

    7. If the pope and bishops are not willing to answer direct questions with clarity and candor — if they won’t be transparent and fully accountable — then I don’t want to hear one more d*** word about “clericalism.”

  42. Mark Windsor says:

    Pardon my cynicism, but I don’t think anything will change at all.

  43. Tom Kaye says:

    I’ve yet to hear anyone mention the Seal of Confession in all of this.

  44. Andrew says:

    The journalist formulated her questions clearly. Her inquiry was not about the content of the entire letter. Two simple questions were asked: “Is it true that you were previously told by the letter writer about this matter? And is it true that your predecessor previously issued a sanction against the person in question?”

  45. PetersBarque says:

    Oh what a tangled web we weave…. The Vicar of Christ may mean well, but he seems to be in way over his head here. May God give him wisdom and courage to speak the awful truth. Anyone, ANYONE, who at ANY TIME conceals even a shred of wickedness becomes a link in the chain of events causing actual and collateral damage to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. And in this case, to the world at large as well.

  46. Il Ratzingeriano says:

    The mainstream press, Pope Francis’ defenders in this and Pope Francis himself are now all in the position of advocating stonewalling as the appropriate response to the McCarrick scandal. They are now joining the ranks of the Catholic bishops who covered up.

  47. SanSan says:

    Former Nuncio Sambi……look what happened to him. Praying for AB Vigano

  48. xsosdid says:

    He seems like a man who is very concerned with exactly how much is going to come out. He was willing, apparently to speak plainly before this (i.e to the group with whom he met), but now feels the need to tread very ccarefully and not go on the record.
    That’s what I ttook away from his answers. He is very scared, in my opinion.

  49. Unwilling says:

    Andrew has the simple truth of it! The “profession of journalism” was over-riding any wish she may have had to get him off the hook. While Francis baldly begs/admits he would rather not answer on that topic, Vigano.

  50. marcelus says:

    Still strange,, ST JP” did not know, BXVI did not know? I do not know what to think. Honestly , think what you will but I do not see this man covering up actively for predators..By omission? maybe so. In any case, he did not answer the Dubia, much less will he be moved by a report by a former Nuncio. My thoughts

  51. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    I have always found him lacking on understanding of certain things. The last thing the press is to do is make conclusions. Well, the way it is supposed to be. Even when they give spin they are given the spin and then they spin like crazy.

    I have asked this in other ways. If the US Cardinals and Bishops resign as with Chili, but before that happens the Pope resigns. Don’t we get more of the same. There is not a subculture, but a culture. There are more than the Americans that have a problem. So would we not just ask that culture to elect a new Pope.
    You have to get rid of the Bishops and Cardinals first then replace them than get a Pope.

  52. HighMass says:

    Didn’t read all the comments, but seems like Francis is skirting around the issue at hand, nothing new really, if it doesn’t fit the agenda of the liberals questions are ignored. i.e. the Dubia by the four Cardinals.
    It would be a blessing if all those who concealed this would resign, including Francis.

    It is time for a new conclave, new orthodox Pope is needed, I pity whoever will become the next Pope what a mess that is on everyone’s hand.

  53. Fr Martin Fox says: 4. I cannot rule out the thesis that the pope wonders what else is out there. If he simply denies the charge, what would follow? So his non response makes logical sense. He is avoiding a trap.

    Then why doesn’t he just not talk to the media?

  54. JesusFreak84 says:

    So much for “let your yes be yes and your no be no.”

  55. Therese says:

    It’s plain enough: tell the truth if you dare.

  56. JackintheVox says:

    I do get something else from his body language. I think he genuinely feels bamboozled by McCarrick and company (note the comment the reporter made about Marie Collins testifying that the Pope strongly condemned McCarrick in private). There’s a chance he is asking the reporters to unearth the full story because he can’t trust anyone any more, and he doesn’t want to give anyone the chance to protect himself.

  57. Pingback: The MSM’s Pope Francis Dilemma – Da Tech Guy Blog

  58. Semper Gumby says:

    Well now, that video was telling.

    Overall, this situation is a failure of pastoral care, leadership, management, supervision, judgement, and empathy. Given Francis’ problematic behavior, statements, and actions he, along with certain cardinals, bishops, priests, and nuns should resign.

    That said, I am inclined to agree with acardnal- for various reasons they will not resign.

    There was an interesting comment here last week about the RICO Act. The Holy See is a sovereign entity, and the following quote is from a policy statement on the US Department of State’s website at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor:

    “Because the promotion of human rights is an important national interest, the United States seeks to:

    Hold governments accountable to their obligations under universal human rights norms and international human rights instruments…Promote the rule of law, seek accountability, and change cultures of impunity…”

    Deo Volente, the Church hierarchy will realize sooner rather than later that accountability and transparency on this matter is preferable to secular prosecutors and governments inserting themselves into the activities of the Holy See.

    Historical times that God has granted us the opportunity to witness. Thy will be done.

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