Pope Francis Long Knew of Cardinal’s Abuse and Must Resign, Archbishop Says
By Jason Horowitz
New York Times
August 26, 2018
On the final day of Pope Francis’ mission to Ireland, as he issued wrenching apologies for clerical sex abuse scandals, a former top Vatican diplomat claimed in a letter published on Sunday that the pope himself had joined top Vatican officials in covering up the abuses and called for his resignation.
The letter, a bombshell written by Carlo Maria Vigano, the former top Vatican diplomat in the United States and a staunch critic of the pope’s, seemed timed to do more than simply derail Francis’ uphill efforts to win back the Irish faithful, who have turned away from the church in large numbers.
Its unsubstantiated allegations and personal attacks amounted to an extraordinary public declaration of war against Francis’ papacy at perhaps its most vulnerable moment, intended to unseat a pope whose predecessor, Benedict XVI, was the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years.
Archbishop Vigano claimed that the Vatican hierarchy was complicit in covering up accusations that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had sexually abused seminarians and that Pope Francis knew about the abuses by the now-disgraced American prelate years before they became public. Yet, the letter contended, Francis did not punish the cardinal, but instead empowered him to help choose powerful American bishops.
In a news conference on the papal plane back to Rome late Sunday evening, Francis was asked whether there was any truth to the claim that Archbishop Vigano had personally informed him in 2013 of Cardinal McCarrick’s history of abuse. He was also asked whether Benedict had sanctioned the American cardinal, as the letter also claimed.
The pope did not deny it, but sidestepped the questions by insisting he would not dignify them with a response.
“I will not say a single word about this,” he said. “I believe the statement speaks for itself. And you have the sufficient journalistic ability to make your conclusions. It’s an act of trust.”
The 7,000-word attack on Francis’ allies in the Vatican, published early Sunday Dublin time by several conservative Catholic outlets antagonistic to the pope, represented a steep escalation in the longstanding, and increasingly caustic, rivalries within the church.
Factions have battled over the direction the church has gone under Francis, with conservatives, especially some American cardinals and bishops, warning that his pastoral and inclusive approach and emphasis on social issues dilute church doctrine and pose a mortal threat to the future of the faith.
|In a letter published on Sunday, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano claimed that Pope Francis was aware of abuse allegations against an American prelate.|
Already on Sunday afternoon, the battle was being joined.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, who is aligned with Francis and was a target of Archbishop Vigano’s letter, said in a phone interview that he suspected English speakers had helped Archbishop Vigano write the letter. He called the pope “a man of integrity.”
“If he makes a mistake, he admits it,” Cardinal Cupich said. “That’s why I’m convinced this is something that he is going to respond to in an appropriate way.”
Cardinal Cupich also said the timing of the letter raised questions.
“I’d have to leave it up to him to ask him why he timed the release of this at this moment, particularly if he considered this information so very critical and important,” the cardinal said.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, a leading conservative voice in the Catholic Church, who according to the letter was disparaged by Francis, vouched for Archbishop Vigano’s integrity in a statement from his spokesman.
The willingness of the pope and his allies to reach out to gay Catholics has infuriated conservatives, many of whom, like Archbishop Vigano, blame homosexuals for the sex abuse crisis. The pope has argued that the abuse is a symptom of a culture of privilege and imperviousness among priests who value the church’s traditions over its parishioners.
Last month, Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal McCarrick, the first such resignation in living memory, after The New York Times and other news outlets published accounts of the alleged abuse and an internal investigation by the American church deemed credible an accusation that he had sexually abused a minor.
Archbishop Vigano said that Benedict had already punished Cardinal McCarrick for his abuse of seminarians and priests. The archbishop writes that Benedict had banned the American cardinal from publicly celebrating Mass, from living in a seminary and from traveling to give lectures.
There is no public record of such a sanction, and the cardinal continued to celebrate Mass. And in 2012, Cardinal McCarrick joined bishops in the Vatican to sing happy birthday to Benedict as they presented him with a fresh strawberry-and-kiwi custard cake.
Cardinal Cupich said he was not aware of any restrictions that Pope Benedict put on Cardinal McCarrick, as Archbishop Vigano asserts.
|A protest in Dublin on Sunday during Pope Francis’ visit.|
“How can you have secret restrictions? What does that mean?” Cardinal Cupich said, adding that it would have been Archbishop Vigano’s duty as nuncio to inform the American bishops of the restrictions. “Why didn’t he tell us this?” he asked. “Why didn’t he enforce it?”
Archbishop Vigano accused Francis of failing to apply the sanctions on Cardinal McCarrick and instead rehabilitating and entrusting him to help choose powerful American bishops, including Cardinal Cupich.
Archbishop Vigano despises many of those bishops, who now wield influence and promote Francis’ pastoral approach, and he complained in the letter of being deprived of the voice typically given to a papal nuncio in choosing them. He targeted those bishops and cardinals by name, but saved his strongest fire for Francis.
“He knew from at least June 23, 2013, that McCarrick was a serial predator,” Archbishop Vigano wrote.
“In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church,” he wrote, “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 for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them.”
At a 2013 reception in the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican shortly after Francis was elected pope, Archbishop Vigano was effusive with praise for him, saying his audience was “extremely nice, extremely warm.”
But in the letter, he said he had received an icy reception from Francis. And he said the pope had told him on June 23, 2013: “The bishops in the United States must not be ideologized, they must not be right wing.” Francis then added, according to Archbishop Vigano, that they must not be left wing, “and when I say left-wing, I mean homosexual.”
It was then, he said, that Francis asked his opinion of Cardinal McCarrick.
“Holy Father,” Archbishop Vigano said he had responded, “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.”
Archbishop Vigano, who blames gays for the child abuse crisis that has destroyed the church’s standing in many countries, dedicated entire sections of the letter to outing cardinals who he claims belong to what he characterizes as a pernicious “homosexual current” within the Vatican.
|Last month, Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the first such |