Just hours after Pope Francis condemned the “repugnant crimes” of sexual abuse by clergy during his two-day trip to Ireland, news broke in the United States that a former papal ambassador to the country is accusing Francis of having known about abuse allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and failing to act.
More than that, Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò asserts that Francis actually repealed sanctions imposed on McCarrick by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in the late 2000s, despite the fact that Viganò personally briefed Francis in June 2013 about McCarrick and the charges of misconduct and abuse.
CBS News spoke by telephone to Vigano on Sunday, who confirmed he wrote the statement and said he was speaking now “to combat the grave situation in the church, to protect the church and also to stop future abuse.” He told CBS News producer Anna Matranga that he had no agenda and was stating facts.
In an 11-page statement on Saturday, the 77-year-old Viganò called on Pope Francis to resign.
“In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church, he must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance, Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example to Cardinals and Bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them,” he wrote.
Viganò served as the Papal Nuncio to the United States from October 2011 to April 2016, serving both Popes Benedict and Francis.
In the statement, Viganò said he met the newly elected Pope Francis on June 23, 2013, about McCarrick, the former archbishop of both Newark and Washington D.C., who resigned last month over claims he sexually abused seminary students and an altar boy.
Viganò said he told Francis about the allegations: “Holy Father, I don’t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation for Bishops there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.”
Viganò offered details about the penance he says was imposed by Benedict.
“The cardinal was to leave the seminary where he was living,” Viganò wrote, “he was also 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 says that he doesn’t know exactly when those measures were decreed, but that it occurred in 2009 or 2010.
Also according to Viganò, earlier efforts by other papal envoys to the United States to bring the charges against McCarrick to Rome’s attention were obstructed in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, blaming Italian Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Tarcisio Bertone – the Secretaries of State for Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, respectively.
Viganò also claims that Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., knew about the accusations against McCarrick, saying “I myself brought up the subject with Cardinal Wuerl on several occasions” and says that “the Cardinal lies shamelessly.”
In a recent interview, Wuerl vigorously asserted that he had been unaware of either the abuse charges against McCarrick or previous settlements for misconduct with seminarians in the dioceses of Metuchen and Newark in New Jersey.
In a new statement to Crux on Sunday, McFadden said that “In spite of what Archbishop Viganò’s memo indicates, Cardinal Wuerl did not receive any documentation or information during his time in Washington regarding any actions taken against Archbishop McCarrick.”
Under Francis, Viganò claims, sanctions against McCarrick were lifted and the former Washington prelate acted as a “kingmaker” for personally making appointments both in the U.S. and in the Vatican. Among other things, Viganò credits McCarrick for having “orchestrated” the appointments both of Cardinal Blase Cupich in Chicago and Cardinal Joseph Tobin in Newark.
Full text of the statement available here.
Full story at Crux.
Updated August 27 to include direct link to Archbishop Vigano’s letter.