Embattled Pope Francis has no intention of stepping down amid accusations that he covered up sexual abuse charges against the now retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Italian news agency ANSA reported Wednesday, citing “close associates” of the pope. Moreover, the pontiff was “embittered” by the claims made in Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s 11-page letter, according to the report.
Viganò, the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States, called on Pope Francis to resign in the letter, after accusing the pontiff of complicity in covering up allegations of sexual abuse against McCarrick. Not only did he “not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict XVI had imposed on him,” Viganò charged, but the pope also made McCarrick “his trusted counselor.”
McCarrick resigned as a cardinal in July after an investigation found credible allegations that he had abused adults and minors and was a “serial predator” when he was a priest in New York.
Ironically, had Pope Benedict made the sanctions against McCarrick public, the disgraced cleric wouldn’t have been anywhere near the 2013 conclave, where, as a non-elector, he had actively campaigned for then-Cardinal Bergoglio beforehand.
Fr. Gerald Murray made the point well in a piece at First Things:
One great lesson of this scandal is that inflicting private and unpublicized penalties for grave offenses against chastity on “important” clerics is a huge mistake. When Benedict found McCarrick to be guilty as charged, the rest of the Church should have been told. McCarrick would not then have been able to pretend he was under no censure. Any violation of the terms of his punishment would have been noted by everyone and thus not allowed to happen. Then Cardinal McCarrick would not have been at the 2013 conclave, just as the Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien was not present due to his sexual abuse of adult males under his authority.
Pope Francis told reporters on the plane returning from his trip to Dublin that he wouldn’t comment on Viganò’s claims, saying he thinks the letter “speaks for itself.”
Some, including Father John Zuhlsdorf (Father Z), interpreted the pope as saying, “You, the press, have been on my side till now. If you think about it for a while, you should still be on my side. If you weigh the alternatives you will remember that I am your guy.”
Father Z suspected — without actually coming out and saying it — that the pope was “calling on the press to do the necessary work to make this go away.”
A harsh, but fair interpretation. And the Francis-friendly media is not disappointing.