We have noticed Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò come in for some criticism lately for allegedly masterminding the visit between the Holy Father and Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who had the temerity to resist the wonders of Obergefell. How could such a saintly—that is, liberal—pope meet with the denim-bedecked villain of the age? Surely there was trickery! Now, some folks are demanding he resign the nunciature.
We are having a good laugh. Don’t these critics know that Archbishop Viganò set in motion—probably inadvertently—the process that led to Benedict’s abdication and Francis’s election? Archbishop Viganò, formerly a close collaborator of Cardinal Sodano and Cardinal Filoni (and probably, frankly, Cardinal Tauran) at the Secretariat of State, was moved, when Cardinal Bertone became secretary of state, to the governorate of the Vatican City State. While at the governorate, Archbishop Viganò started looking closely at the books. For his trouble, Cardinal Bertone, who was always Ratzinger’s man, not Sodano’s, rewarded him with the nunciature to the United States. Archbishop Viganò did not see the transfer as a promotion. He wrote Pope Benedict a letter. That letter touched off the Vatileaks scandal, which weakened Benedict to the point where he felt it better to abdicate than stick it out.
But it gets better: there are some who suggest that Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago—the Francis-style bishop now filling Bernardin’s seat—was appointed on Archbishop Viganò’s motion over the preferred candidate of Cardinal Ouellet and the Congregation for Bishops. We find the suggestion plausible. We recall hearing several reports that the likely choice was Archbishop Joseph Tobin, the Redemptorist archbishop of Indianapolis. And, on paper, Archbishop Tobin would have been a more attractive candidate than then-Bishop Cupich. Tobin had been superior general of the Redemptorists and secretary of the Congregation for Religious under Cardinal Rode and Cardinal Braz de Aviz. Cupich, on the other hand, had been bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota and bishop of Spokane, Washington. Solid posts, to be sure, but not quite as glittering as superior general of a major religious order and secretary of a Curial dicastery. But Tobin remains in the Circle City while Cupich has succeeded the great Cardinal George.
In other words, we think it may be a little ungrateful to portray Archbishop Viganò as a cold-hearted culture warrior out to embarrass the Holy Father. We’ll put it like this: the liberals in the Church, feeling free for the first time since October 16, 1978, likely couldn’t throw “Who am I to judge?” in the face of anyone who questions the new order if Archbishop Viganò hadn’t gotten shirty about Cardinal Bertone’s plan to sideline him. And the American Church wouldn’t have gotten its kinder, gentler—that is, liberal—face, some say, if Archbishop Viganò hadn’t pushed Cupich over Cardinal Ouellet’s preferred candidate (whoever he was). A little gratitude is in order, we think.