A former top Vatican official has accused Pope Francis of having known of allegations of sex abuse by a prominent US cardinal for five years before accepting his resignation last month and he called on the pontiff to resign.
In an 11-page letter given to conservative Catholic media outlets during the Pope’s visit, archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò said he had told Francis in 2013 that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had faced extensive accusations of sexually abusing lower-ranking seminarians and priests.
Vatican officials declined immediate comment on the letter yesterday.
McCarrick became the first cardinal in living memory to resign his position in the Church leadership after a review concluded that claims he had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy were credible.
He was one of the highest-ranking Church officials accused of sex abuse in a scandal that has rocked the 1.2bn-member faith since reports of priests abusing children and bishops covering up for them were first reported by the Boston Globe in 2002.
Since then, patterns of widespread abuse of children have been reported across the US and Europe, in Chile and Australia, undercutting the Church’s moral authority and taking a toll on its membership and coffers.
Viganò said, in the letter reported by the conservative US National Catholic Register, that he had told Francis of allegations against McCarrick in June 2013 shortly after his election as Pope by cardinals.
He knew from at least June 23, 2013, that McCarrick was a serial predator”, Viganò, who served as the Vatican’s ambassador to the US at the time.
“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.”
Viganò said he met the newly elected Pope Francis on June 23, 2013, about McCarrick.
Viganò said he told Francis about the allegations: “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.”
According to the website Crux, Viganò offered details about the penance he says was imposed by Benedict.
The cardinal was to leave the seminary where he was living, he was also forbidden to celebrate [Mass] in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance,” Viganò wrote.
Viganò’s letter railed against “homosexual networks present in the Church” — the word “homosexual” appears 18 times, while the word “child” appears only twice, in both cases in the titles of Church documents which Viganò sites.
Francis vowed to end the sexual exploitation of children by clergy during a highly-charged visit to once deeply Catholic Ireland and, according to victims, said the corruption and cover-up of abuse amounted to human excrement.