Pope ‘won’t say a word’ on claims
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis declined Sunday to confirm or deny claims by the Vatican’s retired ambassador to the United States that he knew in 2013 about sexual misconduct allegations against the former archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, but rehabilitated him anyway.
Francis said the 11-page text by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, which reads in part like a homophobic attack on Francis and his allies, “speaks for itself” and that he wouldn’t comment on it.
Francis was asked by a U.S. reporter during an airborne press conference Sunday if Vigano’s claims that the two discussed the McCarrick allegations in 2013 were true. Francis was also asked about Vigano’s claims that McCarrick was already under sanction at the time, but that Francis rehabilitated him.
Francis said he had read Vigano’s document and trusted journalists to judge for themselves.
“It’s an act of trust,” he said. “I won’t say a word about it.”
The National Catholic Register and another conservative site, LifeSiteNews, published Vigano’s text Sunday as the pope wrapped up a two-day visit to Ireland dominated by the clerical sex abuse scandal.
Vigano, 77, a conservative whose hardline anti-gay views are well known, urged the reformist pope to resign over what he called Francis’ own culpability in covering up McCarrick’s crimes.
Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation as cardinal last month, after a U.S. church investigation determined that an accusation he had sexually abused a minor was credible.
Since then, several former seminarians have said McCarrick abused and harassed them when they were in seminary. The accusations have created a crisis of confidence in the U.S. and Vatican hierarchy, because it was apparently an open secret that McCarrick regularly invited seminarians to his New Jersey beach house, and into his bed.
Coupled with the devastating allegations of sex abuse and cover-up in a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report — which found that 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children over 70 years in six dioceses — the scandal has led to calls for heads to roll and for a full Vatican investigation into who knew what and when about McCarrick.
Vigano apparently sought to answer some of those questions. His letter identifies by name the Vatican cardinals and U.S. archbishops who were informed about the McCarrick affair, an unthinkable expose for a Vatican diplomat to make. He said documents backing up his version of events are in Vatican archives.
The Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2011 to 2016, Vigano said his two immediate predecessors “did not fail” to inform the Holy See about accusations against McCarrick, starting in 2000. Vigano said he himself sent at least two memos on him.
He said Pope Benedict XVI eventually sanctioned McCarrick in 2009 or 2010 to a lifetime of penance and prayer, and to no longer celebrate Mass in public or travel.
He said Francis asked him about McCarrick when they met on June 23, 2013, at the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel where the pope lives, three months after Francis was elected pope.
Vigano wrote that he told Francis: “Holy Father, I don’t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation of Bishops, there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests.”
Soon thereafter, Vigano wrote, he was surprised to find that McCarrick had started traveling on missions on behalf of the church, including to China.
The letter also contains a lengthy diatribe about homosexuals and liberals in the Catholic church. It often reads like an ideological manifesto, naming all of Francis’ known supporters in the U.S. hierarchy as being complicit in a cover-up of McCarrick’s misdeeds.
“Now that the corruption has reached the very top of the church’s hierarchy, my conscience dictates that I reveal those truths regarding the heart-breaking case of the archbishop emeritus of Washington,” Vigano wrote.