The former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, wrote an extraordinary letter in which he accused high-ranking Vatican officials of knowing since 2000 of Washington, D.C. Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse. The letter also accused Pope Francis of being aware of the allegations in 2013 but making McCarrick a cardinal anyway.
Vigano called on Francis to resign.
The National Catholic Register and another conservative site, LifeSiteNews, published the letter attributed to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano on Sunday as the pope wrapped up a two-day visit to Ireland dominated by the clerical sex abuse scandal.
Vigano, 77, a conservative whose hard-line anti-gay views are well known, urged the reformist pope to resign over the issue and what he called the “conspiracy of silence” about McCarrick. He and the pope have long been on opposite ideological sides, with the pope more a pastor and Vigano more a cultural warrior.
The Vatican did not immediately comment. The document’s authenticity was confirmed to The Associated Press by an Italian journalist, Marco Tosatti, who said he was with Vigano when the archbishop wrote it Wednesday.
“He was very emotional and upset at the end the effort,” Tosatti told AP, adding that Vigano left Tosatti’s home afterward without saying where he was going.
In the letter, Vigano accused the former Vatican secretaries of state under the previous two popes of ignoring detailed denunciations against McCarrick for years. He said Pope Benedict XVI eventually sanctioned McCarrick in 2009 or 2010 to a lifetime of penance and prayer.
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.
It has really hit the fan for Francis now. The controversial pope has appeared to embrace victims of priestly sex abuse and has promised more reforms. Now, if these accusations are true, it appears that the pope himself has been part of the problem.
Vigano writes that he tried to get Pope Francis to come to grips with the McCarrick matter:
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, and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.”
Soon thereafter, Vigano wrote, he was surprised to find that McCarrick had started traveling on missions on behalf of the church, including to China. McCarrick was also one of the Vatican’s intermediaries in the U.S.-Cuba talks in 2014.
It’s unclear how much of Vigano’s story is true and how much might be payback for being shunted to the sidelines by the liberal pope.
Vigano’s claim that McCarrick had been ordered by Benedict to stay out of public ministry and retire to a lifetime of prayer is somewhat disputed, given that McCarrick enjoyed a fairly public retirement. Vigano provides no evidence that such sanctions were imposed by Benedict in any official capacity, saying only that he was told they were.
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.
The pope has been in Ireland, where sex abuse scandals have destroyed the Catholic Church. If the story is true, the credibility of the pope to deal with the sex abuse scandals will be compromised to the point where he may have to consider resignation.