Archbishop Alleges Pope Francis Knew of Cardinal’s Abuse for Years Without Acting

August 26, 2018, 5:04 PM UTC
Pope Francis Ireland
DUBLIN, IRELAND - AUGUST 25: (NO SALES) In this handout image provided by Maxwell Photography for WMOF2018, Pope Francissigns a book at Aras an Uachtarain on August 25, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. Pope Francis is the 266th Catholic Pope and current sovereign of the Vatican. His visit, the first by a Pope since John Paul II's in 1979, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of Catholics to a series of events in Dublin and Knock. During his visit he will have private meetings with victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. (Photo by WMOF2018/Maxwell Photography via Getty Images)
Handout WMOF2018/Maxwell Photography via Getty Images

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former Vatican diplomat in Washington, alleges in a letter published Sunday that Pope Francis knew about the sexual abuse committed by a top American clergyman years before he was publicly disgraced.

The allegations come just days after Francis denounced the Church’s history of abuse in a letter to all Catholics. The letter was published during Francis’s trip to Ireland, the same day he again addressed victims of abuse and said “I beg the Lord’s forgiveness for these sins.”

In a 11-page personal testimony, Viganò, a longtime critic of Francis, asserts several top Vatican officials (including Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI) knew of the abuses committed by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, D.C., but allowed him to continue in his religious practice.

McCarrick resigned from his position earlier this summer due to allegations that he abused both child and adult seminarians over decades. According to The New York Times, McCarrick’s resignation was the first to be motivated by sexual abuse allegations.

Viganò names several Vatican officials who he says were complicit in covering up McCarrick’s crimes, including Francis. According to Viganò, Benedict had already forbidden McCarrick from publicly practicing Mass (among other sanctions for his alleged abuse), when Francis became pope, The New York Times reports.

Viganò says Francis knew about these sanctions, but did not enforce them. In 2013, he says the pope asked him about McCarrick, and Viganò responded: “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.”

In his letter, published by conservative Catholic outlets including the National Catholic Register and Lifesite News, Viganò continues, saying, “The Pope did not make the slightest comment about those very grave words of mine and did not show any expression of surprise on his face, as if he had already known the matter for some time, and he immediately changed the subject.”

Viganò calls for Francis’s resignation, saying, “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 for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them.”

In his letter, Viganò blames “homosexual networks” for the cover-up behind Church abuse. “These homosexual networks,” he writes, “which are now widespread in many dioceses, seminaries, religious orders, etc., act under the concealment of secrecy and lies with the power of octopus tentacles, and strangle innocent victims and priestly vocations, and are strangling the entire Church.”

The Washington Post points out Viganò does not provide proof for these claims in his letter, and he himself is no stranger to scandal. According to the Post, Viganò lost a power struggle in Rome, attempted to cover up an investigation into clergy abuse in Minnesota, and was removed from his role in Washington in 2016 after allegations he was involved in fighting same-sex marriage.

The Vatican did not immediately comment on the letter.