ROME – With no doubt at all, the drama unfolding around Pope Francis right now after an accusation that he ignored sexual misconduct warnings about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick really has only two protagonists: Francis himself and the man making the charge, Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former papal ambassador to the United States.
However, the supporting cast of figures with bit parts in the story is so sprawling that a brief guide to the players is in order.
American lawyer Tim Busch
Busch is a prominent Catholic conservative in Orange County, California, and an attorney who owns luxury hotels and the Napa-based vineyard Trinitas Cellars. He’s also the founder of the “Napa Institute” and holds a yearly meeting at his Napa Valley resort for several hundred wealthy Catholic philanthropists, with speakers generally representing a “who’s who” of the conservative Catholic world.
In 2017, he hosted a meeting for conservative Catholics in Trump Tower in Washington, D.C.
Soon after the Viganò letter was released, Busch told the New York Times that he had been made aware of the missive two weeks before its release.
Busch – who was also a co-honoree with Viganò at the Rector’s Dinner of the North American College, the national seminary of the U.S. hierarchy, in 2016 – has publicly praised Viganò for the great service he provided the Church in the release of his letter.
Italian journalist Marco Tosatti
Tosatti, known to a generation of Italians as the regular Vatican writer for the daily newspaper La Stampa, claims that on Aug. 22 he spent three hours with Viganò writing, rewriting and editing his 11-page testimony, to make it more “journalistic.”
In an interview, the journalist claimed he persuaded the archbishop to go public after the Pennsylvania grand jury report was published two weeks ago. That document revealed that some 300 priests had abused over 1,000 minors in a span of seven decades.
Tosatti, a leading conservative critic of Francis, told The Associated Press that Viganò had called him a few weeks ago out of the blue asking to meet, and then proceeded to tell him the information that became the basis of the testimony.
After the election of Francis, Tosatti has written largely for more conservative publications, including First Things magazine, and conservative blogs.
Italian Journalist Aldo Maria Valli
Valli is an Italian journalist who covers the Vatican for Italian state television RAI, has a blog and has written several books.
According to a blog entry from August 27, Viganò went to Valli’s home weeks before the letter was published for a family dinner, at which Valli’s wife and the rest of the family were present, and said that he needed to speak the truth though a letter because “those cracks mentioned by Paul VI, from which Satan’s smoke would slip into the house of God, have become chasms. The devil is hard at work. And not to admit it, or to turn a blind eye, would be our greatest sin.”
Valli says that Viganò then spoke about the statement he had written and offered to show it to Valli, saying it proves that the “pope knew and didn’t act. After you’ve read it, you’ll decide if you want to publish it, at least in your blog, that has so many followers. I want for it to be known.”
British Journalist Edward Pentin
Pentin is one of the journalists who broke the story of the Viganò statement. He writes for the National Catholic Register, which is owned by EWTN, and is widely seen as a leading English-language conduit for the views of conservative and traditionalist Catholics.
For example, Pentin’s coverage of the 2014 and 2015 Synods of Bishops which produced Amoris Laetitia became a go-to destination for understanding what the conservative camp inside those synods was thinking.
Pentin wrote a book after the 2014 summit titled “The Rigging of a Synod,” which echoed many conservative complaints about how the process had unfolded.
In a recent interview, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, a close Francis ally who also comes under fire in Viganò’s statement, said: “I am the victim of a ‘hit man’ who practices media harassment. His name is Edward Pentin and he works for an EWTN newspaper called the National Catholic Register.”
Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet
Though never one to give interviews or promote himself in public, Ouellet could be the man holding the keys to putting at least one aspect of Viganò’s charge to rest.
Viganò alleges he told Francis in 2013 that under Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, restrictions were imposed on McCarrick related to charges that he “corrupted generations of seminarians,” and that the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops has a “thick dossier” on the ex-cardinal.
If that’s true, then Ouellet is the man currently sitting on that dossier, since he’s the current prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
Viganò also claimed Ouellet told him about the restrictions against McCarrick before the former ambassador left for Washington, D.C. in 2011. To date, Ouellet has said nothing about those assertions and phone calls by Crux to the congregation have gone unanswered.
Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Viganò claims in his statement that in 2006 he told Bertone, at the time Pope Benedict’s Secretary of State, about the allegations against McCarrick.
The allegations, be wrote, included “the crimes of seducing, requesting depraved acts of seminarians and priests, repeatedly and simultaneously with several people, derision of a young seminarian who tried to resist [McCarrick’s] seductions in the presence of two other priests, absolution of the accomplices in these depraved acts, sacrilegious celebration of the Eucharist with the same priests after committing such acts.”
Yet, he claimed, Bertone did nothing, while in the meantime he “notoriously favored promoting homosexuals into positions of responsibility, and was accustomed to managing the information he thought appropriate to convey to the pope.”
Italian Cardinal Giovani Battista Re
Re was the head of the Congregation for Bishops from 2001 until 2010. Francis approved his election as the Sub-Dean of the College of Cardinals in 2017.
According to Viganò, it was through Re that he learned Benedict had imposed sanctions on McCarrick: “The Cardinal was to leave the seminary where he was living, he was forbidden to celebrate [Mass] in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance.”
Viganò also claimed that Re opposed McCarrick’s nomination to Washington back in 2001, and that there’s a handwritten note from the Italian cardinal in which he “disassociates himself from the appointment.”
To date, Re has not commented on those claims.
Italian Father Antonio Spadaro
Considered an informal papal spokesman, the Jesuit priest, who’s become part of the papal entourage when Francis travels abroad, is not mentioned in the dossier but has become one of the pope’s most prominent defenders during this crisis.
Director of the Jesuit-run Civiltà Cattolica magazine, which comes with a stamp of approval from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, recently posted on Facebook that the Viganò affair is a coordinated attack by “pseudo-Catholic media” with shady interests. According to him, Francis “draws energy” from the conflict and sees it as a sign that his actions are bothering some who need to be bothered.
Acknowledging that there will always be division within the Church, Spadaro said that the crisis can lead to thinking of a Church that is “more humble” and a “model of its Crucified Lord who, humiliated on the cross, saved the world.”
Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga
The Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras leads Francis’s “C9” council of cardinal advisors and is one of the Argentine pontiff’s closest allies. Rodriguez was heavily attacked by the former U.S. nuncio, who claimed the cardinal, together with McCarrick, had become a “kingmaker” for appointments in the Vatican and the United States.
In an interview with Spanish portal Periodista Digital, Maradiaga said that he was being attacked because, as coordinator of the C9, he was working on reforming the Curia.
“The enemies of this reform want to end this council,” the cardinal said. “The main objective is Pope Francis.”
On Viganò’s letter, he said that he was “surprised by it,” and said that for the author to be forgiven for incurring in the sin of slander he had to “repair the damage done.”
“To ask for the resignation of the pope, in my opinion, is a sin against the Holy Spirit, who ultimately is the guide of the Church,” Maradiaga said.