Edward Peters on the Vigano Controversy


Edward Peters responds to a National Catholic Register article which was entitled “It’s time to turn down the temperature.” Besides appearing in his “In Light of the Law” blog, the response was also carried in the Catholic World Report.


I read that earlier today. While I still think it was wrong for Vigano to say Pope Francis should resign, he makes a compelling counter argument. And I agree with Fr de Souza that the Church certainly doesn’t need another Papal resignation, Peters points out that if the allegations are true, it would be for the best of the Church.

Interesting read, especially considering the Canon Law aspects. I have stated I think overall Vigano has done a true service to the church in releasing his letter. Peters certainly seems to confirm that.


That was kind of a long rant. I didn’t think canon lawyers were the type to rant like that; of course he threw in some canon law stuff, albeit not very useful, but who said canon lawyers were useful anyway.

Strangely enough, Edward’s rant about Fr. de Souza’s article seems to prove Fr. de Souza’s point very well. How did Edward not see that one?


Canon lawyers are useful. Question answered for all eternity.



Wow! Thanks for this. I’ve learned something about canon law today.


I am disappointed in Edward Peters. In the past, he has stuck mostly to issues of canon law. Now, it seems, he is advancing himself to judge. He takes sides:

Moreover, this ‘everybody-calm-down’ advice supposedly aimed at ‘both sides’ of this matter is frankly insulting to that one side which, beyond any question, has been severely betrayed by the other

Bear in mind that the side he is speaking of in this specific instance is an AB who has not been promoted as he thinks he should have. He criticized the rhetoric of one author, while using his own.

Most of De Souza’s essay urging disputants “to turn down the temperature” savors of that rhetorical style, now wearing very thin,…

Francis, for example, sees himself as choosing the high road of silence and, after taking some digs

His own bias in this matter is rather blatant, I am afraid. Instead of trying to tell a Pope what to do, he could take the role of a sheep and learn the advantages of silence, or at least, patience.


In the first couple of paragraphs Edward Peters did a good job of explaining the implication of canon law. However, he severely begs the question by switching from being ineffective to “should” resign. Even if Pope Francis is never again effective at reaching stubborn American conservatives, or people from SNAP, that would not mean he is ineffective.


Maybe I misread the article, but I didn’t see him calling for the Pope’s resignation (actually he said that he does not know enough to decide). He said that calls from leadership for silence in the face of these accusations is not helpful for the Church.


Where are we getting that the archbishop is lashing out because he wasn’t promoted? Whether his testimony is true or not, he is well into retirement and has no career to advance.


I did not say that he was lashing out. I merely said he hadn’t be promoted, that is, elevated to Cardinal. That is not a fact that should be debatable.

I have noticed, whether it is significant or not, there is a correlation between those who do not approve of Pope Francis and those calling for his resignation. Are human motivations a factor? In a court of law, where evidence is considered, testimony can be weighted based on possible motivations. What the AB accused Pope Francis is true or not, but that is kind of the whole question, isn’t it. It is well established that our minds process data based on what we want, how we feel, and the outcome we desire. Our perception and our memories are affected by this.


That is not what you said. You wrote…

“Bear in mind that the side he is speaking of in this specific instance is an AB who has not been promoted as he thinks he should have.”

…the (not-so-subtle) implication being that Abp. Viganò is vindictive and his actions motivated by a petty desire for revenge. In reality, however, your claim that Viganò thinks that “he has not been promoted as he should have”, clearly runs contrary to his own testimony:

I can affirm with all sincerity before God that I rejected the opportunity to become a cardinal. After my first letter to Cardinal Bertone, which I sent to Pope Benedict so that he could do whatever he thought best, Pope Benedict summoned me and received me in an audience on April 4, 2011, and he immediately spoke these words to me: “I believe that the assignment in which you can best serve the Holy See is as the president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs in place of Cardinal Velasio De Paolis.” I thanked the pope for the confidence he had shown me, and I added, “Holy Father, why don’t you wait six months or a year? Because, if you promote me right now, the team that has had faith in me and worked to remedy the situation in the Governatorate will be immediately dispersed and persecuted (as in fact happened).

I also added another argument. Given that Cardinal De Paolis had only recently been appointed to deal with the delicate situation of the Legionaries of Christ (Cardinal De Paolis had consulted me before accepting this assignment), I said to the pope that it would be better if he would continue to have an institutional position that would give greater authority to him as a person and thus to his action with the Legionaries. At the end of the audience, Pope Benedict said to me once more: “I however remain of the opinion that the position in which you can best serve the Holy See is as president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs.” Cardinal Re can confirm this story. Thus, I renounced being made a cardinal for the good of the Church.

This leaves us with two possibilities. Either Abp. Viganò is a liar (and presumably Cdl. Re as well), or you were simply unaware of the facts of the situation, that he had freely renounced being made a Cardinal during an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. If you believe the former, then you may as well accuse him of dishonesty instead of having recourse to thinly veiled insinuations; if the latter, then I will suggest that you take the pains to better inform yourself before casting aspersions and denigrating the good name of an Archbishop.


Excuse me?


It was not an implication. It was a fact. Implications, insinuations, etc., are in the mind of the reader. Precision is needed in communication.


How can you know that his intentions are vindictive?


I don’t, and I did not say that.


Maybe I misunderstood what you said?


I have specifically avoided giving any motive. While not all clergy are saints, even if Archbishop Vigano is shown to be factual wrong about their being sanctions, then the more charitable interpretation would be that he genuinely believed their were sanctions. What we want, our bias, can skew our perception and memory. It also can make a letter like he wrote factually, but honestly, wrong.

Take the case of Edward Peters. He is an expert in canon law and makes a compelling case that canon law encourages a bishop to resign if he becomes ineffective, even if through no fault of his own. However, surely he, as a canon lawyer, knows that canon law does not apply to the pope, just like retirement age for bishops do not apply to the pope. Would he have missed adding this in if he was not of the opinion Pope Francis should resign, if it is found that there were sanctions?

And yes, I think he is totally all wet on his suggestion that St. John Paul the Great should have resigned. We would be poorer for it. Of all he did in the last few years of his life, nothing was more important than the saintly example of the value of the elderly in society. They can remain productive far longer than our youth-oriented culture acknowledges.


The pope can change Canon law. The pope cannot be judged by Canon law. But Canon law certainly applies to the pope.


From Catholic Answers:


Half-truth or truth, apply or above. Canon law does not mandate any action on the part of the Pope. Using canon law to say the Pope should do this or that, is sketchy.


If it is factual, then surely you won’t have any difficulty giving a source corroborating your claim that Abp. Viganò is, “an AB who has not been promoted as he thinks he should have.” That he was not elevated to the cardinalate is an uncontested fact; that he thinks he should have been is a separate question altogether, one which Viganò’s testimony powerfully contradicts, especially since he provided a name that would confirm his account (Cdl. Re).

If you are incapable of substantiating your claim, then it seems a retraction is in order. I would say there’s quite enough confusion in the Church, the media, and on CAF these days without us laymen chiming in with baseless speculation.

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