The Atlantic

The Power Play Driving the Latest Vatican Crisis

An explosive letter calling on the pope to resign may say more about its author than anything else.
Source: Stefano Rellandini / Reuters

“In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church … Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up [Cardinal Theodore] McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with the rest of them.” That was the stunning message of a letter, sent by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, that has been roiling the Catholic world since it was published in several traditionalist Catholic news outlets on Saturday. At turns moralistic and conspiratorial in tone, erratic in its deployment of facts, and written with the aid of a conservative Italian Vatican reporter, Viganò’s letter alleges a papal cover-up in the Church’s sexual-abuse scandal. So far, the pope has insisted to reporters that he would not “say a single word about” the letter, which has left him in a painful situation.

But the letter is a power play by Viganò as much as a cri de coeurcalling for a cleanup of the Church. And it may ultimately say less about the Church’s victims than it does about the man who wrote

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