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Maike HicksonBy Maike Hickson, LifeSiteNews, October 15, 2018

(LifeSiteNews) – As we have seen in these last years, the Vatican does not appear to be too apt at working in the field of public affairs. Somehow, one is always able to see through its attempts at trying to skew a piece of information.

At times – as with the March 2018 Vatican ‘Lettergate’ scandal – the Vatican’s attempts at manipulating a story are just too obvious. The Vatican was caught manipulating a letter written by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in order to leave out some remarks that could be interpreted as being negative toward Pope Francis. The fiasco let to Monsignor Dario Viganò resigning as the head of Vatican News.

At the time, Rome Correspondent Edward Pentin commented: “Increasing numbers of faithful Catholics are becoming alarmed and increasingly angry by what they see as a continual stream of deceptions, manipulations and scandals coming from the Vatican under Pope Francis.”

In this context of the Vatican’s awkward ways of exercising the art of public affairs, let us also consider the recently published letter of Cardinal Marc Ouellet addressed explicitly and personally to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and which likewise seems to have failed in its main mission of promoting the position of the Vatican.

Ouellet’s letter can, in fact, be interpreted as confirmation of essential claims of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò despite it being a base ad hominem attack on the archbishop – whose formal title Ouellet does not even once mention. (He does, however, mention Theodore McCarrick four times under the title “archbishop.”)

But a much more trenchant point needs to be made here. In one way, Ouellet has placed himself and the Pope into a corner. For, the Cardinal has now admitted that in 2006 there were indeed some sort of penalties, what he calls “certain conditions and restrictions” that were verbally placed upon then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Ouellet said in his letter that “the former Cardinal, retired in May of 2006, had been requested [sic] not to travel nor to make public appearances, in order to avoid new rumors about him.” While Ouellet tries to claim that one may not properly call it “’sanctions’ formally imposed by Pope Benedict XVI,” nobody would believe that the Congregation for the Clergy itself would ever dare placing any kind of sanctions on a cardinal without first getting the approval of the Pope. The very fact that some penalties were placed on McCarrick also implies that the “rumors” against him were taken seriously enough so as to remove him from public life.

Ouellet, once more confirming that there were, indeed, penalties placed on McCarrick, goes on a little bit later to say: “Thus, the Congregation’s decision was inspired by prudence, and the letters from my predecessor [Cardinal Giovanni-Battista Re] and my own letters urged him, first through the Apostolic Nuncio Pietro Sambi and then through you, to lead a life of prayer and penance, for his own good and for the good of the Church.”

So Ouellet admits that, in 2006, the Church had placed penalties upon McCarrick in order “to avoid new rumors about him” and thereby put himself in a more awkward situation. Since the Cardinal knew about these penalties – did he not himself inform Pope Francis about them and warn him against involving McCarrick in his own current missions, much less even calling him back into an active life in the Church? If he did, the Pope then knew. If Ouellet did not, he was at least negligent, to the detriment of the common good of the Church.

There is no other alternative: Either the Cardinal failed to act and inform the Pope, or the Pope knew and himself failed to act accordingly.

It would be helpful for Ouellet to clarify what exactly he did with his knowledge of McCarrick’s restrictions, at least in order to clear his own reputation.

But, for us outside observers, it seems highly probable that Ouellet – given his own sense of duty – did adequately inform Pope Francis about the penalties already placed on McCarrick. Such a probable thing would certainly make the burden on the Pope even heavier, his having had two prelates (to include Archbishop Viganò) inform him about the McCarrick case.

Thomas Peters, an alert Catholic observer and blogger, has recently put forth the following line of argumentation: “So Ouellet knew about B16’s verbal sanctions, but Francis didn’t? When McCarrick supposedly self-rehabilitated himself after Francis became pope, Ouellet never confronted McCarrick, or told Francis about the [standing] verbal sanctions? If so, Ouellet is guilty too! Great defense.”

It seems, also on this occasion, that the Vatican’s communication office did not work so well. Would it not be better for them to simply answer Viganò’s questions with forthrightness and transparency? Truthfulness and honesty still seem to be the best alternative here, as always.


Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli,, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana,, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.