New Ways Ministry Responds to Archbishop Vigano’s Accusations Against Gay Clergy and Pope Francis

Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

While I am in no position to comment on the veracity of Archbishop Carlo Vigano’s recent claims about what Pope Francis and other church officials knew about various cases of clergy sexual abuse, after reading his statement, his emphasis that all of the Catholic Church’s current problems on supposed “homosexual networks” within the Church and also with Pope Francis reads like classic scapegoating.  The sex abuse crisis in the church is so extensive and complex that simplistic explanations of one or two root causes should immediately raise a red flag.  The fact that gay clergy are once again being scapegoated, after their influence on the abuse crisis has for so long been disproved, should  be a cause of great alarm to all those who want to find real solutions to these problems.

Archbishop Vigano offers no hard evidence of the supposed “homosexual networks,” and relies instead on hearsay and with an expectation that his words will be accepted as truth.  His stories, however, read more like gossip than like an accurate reporting of facts.

The simple fact is that as long as Catholic Church officials continue their negative evaluations of LGBT people, and particularly of gay clergy, they allow scurrilous accusations to be hurled about because there is no way that they can be proved or disproved.    Accusing a church leader of homosexuality or being part of a “homosexual network” becomes an easy way to destroy a cleric’s reputation and trustworthiness by creating a cloud of suspicion and duplicity around the victim of these accusations.

Institutional homophobia encourages silence and secrecy harms individuals, as well as the whole community.  It provides a breeding ground for conspiracy theories and unproven allegations. If the Church’s leadership wants to purge any supposed gay lobby, they should purge silence, secrecy, and homophobia from the Church.

Vigano’s method of argument exhibits classic conspiracy theory tactics:  invent an enemy, which is invisible, which is infiltrating from the inside, but which can’t be proved or disproved.  The suggestion creates fear and suspicion, but worse, it characterizes the selected group as evil, manipulative, and duplicitous.

Conspiracy theories pop up when one side of a discussion (in this case, Catholics who do not want change) feels as if they are losing the argument.  It is simply a way to discredit the other side and to try to offer an alternative explanation of why the argument is being lost–instead of just relying on logic and rational discourse.  It is a tactic used from ancient times to contemporary politics.

The timing and method of release of this document is also somewhat suspicious.  Why did the archbishop release his accusations during the pope’s visit to Ireland, and why did he so by releasing it to two extremely conservative Catholic outlets?  From Vigano’s own account, he supposedly had all of this information for a long time.  Why release it at this specific moment if it were not intended to be primarily defamatory, not as a serious contribution to a serious discussion?

Far from saying anything definitive about either clergy sex abuse or gay men in the upper ranks of the hierarchy, Vigano’s statement reveals more about the intramural fights and politics at the Vatican.  It reads like a sad story of intrigue and alliances.  It shows that church leaders are unable to communicate or get along with one another.

While I would never want to discourage a church official from coming forth with hard evidence about abuse or cover-ups, it is clear that Vigano’s method of reporting these supposed accusations is a textbook case in what not to do.

Vigano’s document reads not like it was authored by someone interested in solving the Church’s sex abuse crisis, but as someone who is attacking a pope whose church policies he opposes.

But it is even more dangerous than that.  For close to 20 years, we have endured the unfounded claim that gay men in the priesthood is the root cause of the sex abuse problem. [For the latest professional refutations of this claim, click here.] In this new document, Vigano goes one step further and tries to pin the blame of the cover-ups on the supposed “homosexual network” in the Vatican.

This sad and sorry account only succeeds in smearing people’s reputations. It does not help the church.  Instead, it tries to roll back any positive steps that Pope Francis has taken in opening up the church conversation on LGBT issues, particularly in regard to his appointment of bishops.

Such ugly chapters in church discourse would end if the Catholic hierarchy would have an open discussion of LGBT issues and if it would allow gay men in the priesthood and hierarchy to live open and free lives.  The time for manipulative secrecy about abuse and about clergy sexuality is long past.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, August 26, 2018


14 replies
  1. Loretta Larkey
    Loretta Larkey says:

    Thank you for your commentary on this, Francis. It’s enlightening for me. It aids me in understanding and forming an informed opinion. I so appreciate the work you do on behalf of the rest of us.

  2. Fred Sarno
    Fred Sarno says:

    Cardinal Burke is siding with Vigano. Enough reason to be suspicious of the whole thing as a right wing campaign against the Pope

      • Ann Malley
        Ann Malley says:

        Keep giving yourself excuses not to look, your Excellency, but that won’t dismiss the truth of what’s going on.

        Time for everyone to tell the truth.

        Would that the Princes of the Church would put Christ first instead of petty agendas that destroy the flock, but that’s okay. God will clean His house.

    • Ann Malley
      Ann Malley says:

      Right or left “wing” is not the issue. Covering up sex crimes and aiding and abetting those who abuse others is the issue. The preponderance of homosexual activity included in this coverup shouldn’t elicit the cry of scapegoat, but rather the reaction by those in the community to reject the wholesale coverup of homosexuals behaving badly within the Church.

      It gives both a bad name.

      So before dismissing, try discovering the root cause of issues. Like lying, regardless of sexual orientation.

      • Bishop Carlos Florido, osf
        Bishop Carlos Florido, osf says:

        There is little relationship between homosexuality and clergy abuse. Even though there are more homosexuals in the Vatican and its surroundings than in any city than I can think of considering size.

  3. Carlos A Florido
    Carlos A Florido says:

    In response to Archbishop Vigano: Our roots come from the Old Catholic Church, as it is with many of the Non-Roman Churches in the USA. We have married priests, women priests and homosexual priests. In all the years that I have been with our Church, we have had one pedophile priest, who was defrocked as soon as we learned about it. All our priests may marry if they so wish.

  4. Friends
    Friends says:

    Francis, while your outrage is justifiable, I’m also reminded of a humorous proverb, which I will “clean up” slightly for reprinting here: “Don’t get into a p***ing contest with a skunk!” The skunk will out-spray you every time…and the white stripe down the back of Vigano’s vestments is perfectly obvious. Fred is correct: Vigano is a troll working for the “Cardinal Burke” reactionary insurrectionists. If our Church has any future at all, it does not abide with the likes of Vigano and Burke.

  5. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    My heart goes out to you particularly because of your hard and authentic work covering the events and nuances in Ireland.
    Push back, however, seems to me to be likened to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Even Jesus wasn’t spared, e.g., so many of them left after his talk about “taking and eating his body” and those who literally plotted and succeeded in killing him. It is possible that Francis may be strengthened by the show of love in Ireland by and within the gay community and compare that to what seems to me to be a reaction based in fear, ignorance and hardened hearts. You and many others gave powerful witness in Ireland. That scares people, thus, you did well. Rest for awhile and be at peace.


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