By Advocatus Diaboli
Office of the Promoter of the Faith
Editor’s note: The author of this article, Jay McNally, uses the Latin pseudonym for “Devil’s Advocate” to stress that this treatise is written in the spirit of the role of the Vatican figure involved in the process leading to the canonization of saints.
The term “devil’s advocate” describes “someone who, given a certain point of view, takes a position he or she does not necessarily agree with (or simply an alternative position from the accepted norm), for the sake of debate or to explore the thought further.”
As stated in Part I of this two-part devil’s advocate series, the archdiocese of Detroit (AOD) is led by men who are still implementing some of the radical designs of Cdl. John Dearden, who started grooming Allen Vigneron for prominence in the Church nearly 50 years ago.
In this essay, we will present some examples of Abp. Vigneron’s policies that demonstrate he may be actually be doing what he can to undermine and destroy Christianity and the West. Areas of concern most easily proved include his work against the broad “Culture of Life” and advocacy for socialist solutions in the economy, immigration and Islam.
Vigneron today leads a small group of ideologues who were his seminary classmates and have risen to high levels of influence in the Church. Vigneron’s lifelong network includes classmates his best friend in high school, Msgr. Patrick Halfpenny, disgraced Abp. John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bp. Don Hanchon.
This group has parallels to an English group known as the Cambridge Five, which penetrated the highest levels of Britain’s intelligence agencies in the 1930s and did great damage to the country as double agents for the Soviet Union for many decades. The Cambridge Five included promiscuous homosexuals.
The Cambridge Five
Nienstedt was revealed in a formal investigation conducted by officials in the chancery of the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to have been a promiscuous homosexual when he was a student and Vatican official in Rome. This 138-page affidavit from the Ramsey County Court in Minnesota contains sad details about Nienstedt’s life as a priest and bishop. Other details are available on Minnesota-based media websites.
It is now known that during the years Vigneron served as vice rector of Sacred Heart Seminary (SHS) under Nienstedt, who was rector (from 1988–1991) there were situations where Nienstedt was advancing his deviant designs on seminaries. The two classmates were elevated to the rank of auxiliary bishop in the same ceremony in 1996 in Detroit.
Often what Vigneron says that accords with Church teaching on the topics of abortion, homosexuality, free markets and private property is contradicted by where he spends his political money.
Next month, Vigneron will take office as secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), a launching point for possible elevation to USCCB president when Cdl. Daniel DiNardo steps down in November 2019. If he becomes USCCB president he will be able to wreak exponentially more damage to the Church and American culture than he has in Michigan since he started climbing the ecclesial ladder upward in 1988 when he became dean of Sacred Heart Seminary.
Former Abp. John Nienstedt
Probably one of the worst years in Vigneron’s life was 2002, when The Boston Globe published its “Spotlight” series that revealed how bishops like him conspired for decades to secretly move known pederasts from parish to parish and diocese to diocese to avoid prosecution and as a favor to the priests, many of whom were their students and friends.
Suddenly, throughout the country, media and prosecutors started investigating criminal sex abuse by priests. Newspapers everywhere ran countless exposés about local scandals, including in the archdiocese of Detroit. Among the pederasts exposed by the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press were SHS professors Gerald Shirilla and Robert Burkholder. Shirilla, a known seminary predator, was professor while Vigneron was dean.
It did not take long for ordinary Catholics to connect the dots and see how they have been betrayed by most seminary and chancery officials who had been ordaining active homosexuals for many years — and lying about it.
Fr. Gerald Shirilla
While the “Spotlight” series certainly hurt Vigneron and his peers, even more damaging was the New York Times bestseller, Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church, in which author Michael Rose documented the process that prevented the best candidates from being admitted to seminaries, including SHS, where Vigneron had spent nine years as rector (1994–2002) and three years as vice-rector (1988–1991).
Rose’s 275-page blockbuster revealed the exact system Vigneron was implanting at SHS, and which faithful Catholics had been complaining about relentlessly since the early 1970s to no avail. The saintly Fr. John Hardon, S.J. lived the last decade of his life in Detroit and often said publicly that the AOD was the second most corrupt diocese in the United States, behind Chicago, and he counseled men seeking to become priests not to enroll at SHS.
The strongest rebuttal to Rose’s book came from two SHS seminarians who orchestrated a campaign in Catholic media to demonize Rose. At that time, this writer was editor of Credo, a weekly Catholic newspaper in Ann Arbor, and periodically wrote investigative reports for various Catholic publications, usually focusing on the “sex scandals.”
Fr. John Hardon, S.J.
In defense of Rose, I wrote a long investigative report about Vigneron’s administration of SHS that was published in New Oxford Review in December 2002 (11 months after the “Spotlight” series began).
Three former SHS seminarians and one priest all verified for publication the brutal process of intimidation and persecution mandated by Vigneron if they showed “conservative colors.” Only these four sources were quoted because most people who knew of the process were unwilling to be quoted; anonymous sources from priests and seminarians who had witnessed Vigneron’s iron fist could have filled dozens of pages.
All the seminarians indicated there was overwhelming pressure for them not to reveal that they adhered to a traditional view of homosexuality in the seminary.
The excerpt below from an email message from one of the seminarians represents a common complaint about Vigneron’s tenure as rector:
I went to Sacred Heart in August of 2000. … When I arrived there I was ignorant of the politics that take place within the seminary. I went through several interviews and quickly learned that there is a division among seminarians and faculty between liberal and orthodox thinkers. I was warned by students not to show too many conservative colors with certain members of the faculty, especially the Vice Rector, Fr. Patrick Halfpenny. But, in an interview with him at the beginning of the year, I was very clear about my more conservative line of thought in Church matters.
After about a month at Sacred Heart I was called to Fr. Halfpenny’s office and told that I had to contact a psychologist (Dr. Joel Harms) to schedule weekly meetings. When I asked why I was being asked to seek counseling, I was never given a clear answer. So, I went to counseling thinking it would be a short-term thing. It wasn’t. I went for two full years never knowing exactly why I had been sent. I talked with Dr. Harms about my classes, my friends, my family, my prayer life, and that sort of thing, especially I talked with him about the same things I talked about with my Spiritual Director, the only difference being by Spiritual Director gave advice, never fell asleep, and did not bill my diocese $100 for each session. When I questioned the counseling again at the beginning of my fourth semester there, I was again told that I was being sent “for my own good” with no further explanation. Then, I was contacted by Fr. Halfpenny and sent to counseling twice a week and I was told that I was “difficult.” In my opinion, the counseling that about half the seminarians at Sacred Heart are forced to endure is held over their heads like some kind of terrorist tactic. Basically it is, go to the doctor or go home. About half the seminarians at Sacred Heart see either Dr. Joel Harms or Dr. Kevin Keenan.
Bishop Allen Vigneron, the Rector/President of Sacred Heart is, in my opinion, a good and holy priest. He is making some great changes at Sacred Heart (i.e. the hiring of Calvert Shenk as Music Director), but it seems that he hasn’t got a lot of control over his faculty. He was also not approachable in regard to issues such as the counseling. I went to discuss the matter with im once, and he told me that as the Rector he had total and absolute trust in his subordinates.
I know men [seminarians] who never pray, who have not been to confession for months, and in one case over a year, and I know men whose only strengths are academic who have no apparent pastoral sense, but because they “play the game” they are advanced through the program and will probably be ordained.
I honestly feel that Sacred Heart is a bad place. I have friends there who get by keeping their mouths shut and “playing the game.” I think that is sad. I’ve seen more than a few people leave formation because they are so disheartened by what has gone on.
Vigneron’s vice rector and the priest most often cited as the rigid and merciless enforcer of the liberal line was his high school classmate and lifelong best friend, Msgr. Patrick Halfpenny. Even today, Vigneron socializes frequently with Halfpenny, who is now pastor of the plum parish assignment of St. Paul on the Lake in the wealthy suburb of Grosse Pointe.
Msgr. Patrick Halfpenny
Halfpenny has floated in and out of a wide variety of positions of great responsibility during his 40-plus years as a priest, in the chancery and at SHS. He wrote a column in archdiocesan newspaper The Michigan Catholic for many years, nearly always focusing primarily on politics from a leftist perspective, and was invariably scornful of conservatives.
One noteworthy episode from the mid-1990s demonstrates the general heterodox mindset of Vigneron and his core group.
At that time, Msgr. Halfpenny was the top supervisor of The Michigan Catholic (usually working two days a week in the office) and gave final approval of the paper for publication. One week, after the paper was ready to be shipped to the printer, he flew into a rage never seen by the newspaper staff before, when he noticed a “headshot” photo of Fr. John Hardon, S.J. included in a brief item on the calendar page about a talk the internationally acclaimed author and theologian was scheduled to give at a parish in the AOD. Halfpenny demanded that the photo be removed, even though it required redesigning and replacing the page.
At a subsequent staff meeting Halfpenny again expressed what can only be called visceral, lip-quivering hatred of Fr. Hardon. He instructed that henceforth Hardon’s photo was never to appear in the paper and also that if his name was to be mentioned at all it would be in the smallest font possible.
When asked by a reporter why he was issuing this unprecedented rule, Halfpenny’s face flushed red and his lip quivered all the more. He then replied, “He’s divisive!”
Most Catholics have no idea that their bishops fund communist, socialist, pro-abortion and homosexualist organizations.
Needless to say, even though Fr. Hardon lived in Detroit for six of the years Vigneron ran SHS, the saintly priest was never invited to speak or teach at the seminary or any branch of the many offices of the chancery, even though he was in great demand nationally as a speaker.
As seminary rector, Vigneron was part of the effort to create a dramatically different kind of priesthood for the United States. As one ponders the unassailable evidence that Vigneron encouraged the ordination of homosexuals while at the same time advancing the persona of being a “conservative,” the question arises: How could this be possible?
Kim Philby, Cambridge Five spy
The answer may be the same as to how and why Kim Philby and his fellow spies for the Soviet Union prospered in the British government: They were, in their heart and soul, communist, dedicated to taking down Western civilization bit by bit. Today, that same destructive and anti-Catholic ideology does not go by the name “communist” in normal parlance, but “socialist.”
Marc Reussman, a high school and college classmate of Vigneron, explained to this reporter in 2001 why the AOD’s top priests were usually left-leaning, and sometimes outright socialist/communist in their worldview: Reussman said he worked in the SHS mailroom during his seminary days and every student received a copy of the Daily Worker, the daily newspaper of the Communist Party USA.
“I was there and saw it,” Reussman said. “The reason these guys are all socialists and communists today is because that is what they were being taught.”
This mandated part of the education of seminarians would be in keeping with the leftist leanings of Auxiliary Bp. Thomas Gumbleton who was vicar general (chief of staff) under Cdl. Dearden and who, in the 1980s, openly advocated on behalf of Marxist dictator of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega.
Auxiliary Bp. Thomas Gumbleton
Throughout the Dearden era, The Michigan Catholic published columns of extreme leftist priests, including SHS professor Fr. Thomas Hinsberg, who went on years later to be president of a regional chapter of the radical dissenting organization, Call to Action.
Thus, the indoctrination of Vigneron and his classmates into the worldview of the Daily Worker may explain why Detroit’s archbishop is a reliable, prominent political ally of the extreme Left on many issues, including socialized medicine, immigration, Islam and is invariably a quiet, even reluctant ally on others, such as abortion and homosexuality.
Often what Vigneron says that accords with Church teaching on the topics of abortion, homosexuality, free markets and private property is contradicted by where he spends his political money.
Vigneron has quietly contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout this tenure as archbishop to radical organizations through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Some of Vigneron’s funding is clearly in violation of CCHD guidelines that are supposed to forbid funding to groups and individuals who advocate against Catholic Church teaching.
Most Catholics have no idea that their bishops fund communist, socialist, pro-abortion and homosexualist organizations. This is mainly because nearly all Catholic media — including EWTN, the National Catholic Register and all Catholic radio — are terrified of publishing these truths.
Additionally, as with so many other instances when he deceives the faithful, he and his people refuse to respond to questions about this betrayal of trust. It is literally impossible to find CCHD grant information on the AOD website, which for several years amounted to close to $100,000 annually for radical groups.
The archdiocese of Detroit is the only diocese in the United States that has publicly supported a Dignity chapter.
In the 2011–2012 grant year, for example, Vigneron gave $25,000 to the group “Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength” (MOSES). One of the leaders of the Michigan-based group is a long-time abortion activist with the National Organization for Women (NOW), MI-List and other similar groups. This link will take you to an easy-to-read document that lays out the absolute treachery of men like Vigneron and his peers, who solemnly declare that somehow advancing such groups is in line with Catholic Church teaching.
Again, the devil’s advocate put forth the undeniable fact that bishops like Vigneron are not stupid — they know what they are doing. Could it be that their real agenda is more in line with the agenda laid out in the Daily Worker they read in college?
In 2014, Vigneron issued a letter to his priests — but not to the media — in which he claimed that the AOD was ceasing its relationship with CCHD. But only two years later, the AOD was back at it again, issuing a $30,000 grant to the Harriet Tubman Center, which advocates for homosexuality and is tied directly to an abortion advocacy event. This deception continues today.
Pro-gay Dignity/Detroit Mass
Additionally, there are many situations when Vigneron has declined to defend Church teaching when doing so would be extraordinarily simple and inexpensive. For example, many schools directly under his supervision are a mess, especially Gabriel Richard High School in Riverview. Most of the routine outrages against Catholic sensibilities experienced in the schools could only take place with the deliberate consent and encouragement of the archbishop and his underlings.
Finally, two egregious failures demonstrate that Vigneron is determined to pursue agendas that are antithetical to much of what everything he professes publicly to believe; they require people of goodwill to question whether the archbishop is really on the side of the Church.
The first and most deeply offensive issue is the homosexual current, which continues to devastate the archdiocese of Detroit. To this day, Vigneron has not uttered “a single word,” to quote Pope Francis, about his support for radical pro-gay group Dignity/Detroit.
The archdiocese of Detroit is the only diocese in the United States that has publicly supported a Dignity chapter; Vigneron’s nine-year silence — and thus, his tacit support — is an ongoing scandal.
Vigneron has always refused to answer inquiries about Dignity/Detroit, including several from this reporter, but when the Detroit Free Press covered the 39th anniversary of the group in 2013, his spokesman declared Vigneron supports the Masses:
“Vigneron is aware of the weekly Dignity masses at Marygrove,” archdiocese spokesman Ned McGrath said. “There are hundreds of masses celebrated in the Detroit archdiocese every weekend. It’s always Archbishop Vigneron’s expectation that these liturgies are conducted in full conformity with the Catholic Church’s teachings and practices,” McGrath said.
McGrath’s statement is classic disinformation, and to those who follow the nuances of these matters, a categorical lie. Dignity represents a total rejection of Church teaching on sexual morality. Additionally, many have noticed the tragic list of openly gay priests in the AOD who have gone off the rails: Many have succumbed to severe depression; some have died of alcoholism and not a few of AIDS. It is not a lifestyle the archbishop of Detroit should encourage.
Secondly, Vigneron routinely distorts Church teaching regarding Islam. He has participated in highly publicized events and issued carefully worded statements that seem designed to create the idea in the public mind that there really are no meaningful distinctions between the Christianity and Islam, and that those who cite Islam as intrinsically violent and contrary to Christianity are bigots.
Some of these statements and those of his spokesmen are likewise timed and worded to denigrate Republican candidates for office; for example, a 2010 newspaper report by former Vigneron spokesman Fr. Lawrence Ventline takes explicit aim at Republicans and the “Tea Party” movement.
In these statements, Vigneron fails to mention the wholesale slaughter of Christians taking place in Muslim-majority nations across the world. Indeed, he has repeatedly refused to meet or answer inquiries of dedicated, long-time faithful Catholics, but seems to have a hotline to the Islamic Council, for whom he has issued several political statements.
There are many hundreds of videos instantly available on YouTube in which respected leaders of Islam call for the extermination of all Jews, the destruction of Europe, the conquest of Rome and the downfall of the United States. Vigneron’s stance that Islam is non-violent stands as perhaps his most pernicious lie, the most damaging sort of propaganda he is putting forth that requires assent from his priests.
Thus, there are virtually no Catholics in the past nine years who have even heard the word “Islam” mentioned in a parish homily. There are countless outstanding essays that eloquently lay out Islam’s teachings, including the work of Catholic author and former Boston College professor William Kilpatrick.
In closing, the purpose of the two devil’s advocate articles is to encourage public discussion about the disaster that is the archdiocese of Detroit.
There are simply too many contradictions in the administrative decisions and policies of Abp. Vigneron throughout his years of leadership to suggest he is actually on the side of the Church, and not the leader of a similar kind of group as the Cambridge Five, who did so much damage to England as they advanced the communist/socialist agenda from their perches of power.
Jay McNally is former editor-in-chief of The Michigan Catholic. He has written investigative reports for several national Catholic publications about the archdiocese of Detroit and offers a unique perspective on how operations and current practices will have little to no positive impact and are, in fact, a blueprint for more destruction of the Faith.
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