Former Vatican ambassador says Pope Francis, Benedict knew of sexual misconduct allegations against McCarrick for years

0
97

AUGUST 26, 2018

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick speaks during a memorial service in South Bend, Ind. at Seton Hall University in 2015. A former Vatican ambassador said Pope Francis and Pope Benedict were aware of Cardinal McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct for years before his behavior exploded into view this summer. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

DUBLIN — A former Vatican ambassador to the United States has alleged in an 11-page letter that Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis — among other top Catholic Church officials — had been aware of sexual misconduct allegations against a top American cardinal years before that prelate resigned this summer.

People hold placards as they take part in a protest during the visit of Pope Francis to Dublin, Ireland, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

The letter from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was recalled from his D.C. post in 2016 amid allegations that he’d become embroiled in the conservative American fight against same-sex marriage, was first reported by the National Catholic Register and LifeSite News, two conservative Catholic sites. The letter offered no proof and Vigano on Sunday told the Post he wouldn’t comment further.

Projections showing victims of clerical abused are seen on the General Post Office (GPO) as part of a protest, ahead of a visit by Pope Francis, in Dublin, Ireland August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

“Silence and prayer are the only things that are befitting,” he said.

Asked about what had been published under his name in the Catholic outlets, Vigano said, “I confirm that it is my text and that I wrote it.”

A protester holds a picture of Pope Francis during a demonstration against clerical sex abuse, in Dublin, Ireland August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The letter sent shockwaves through the Catholic world as Francis prepared to speak before a massive crowd Sunday at Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Francis and other church leaders are facing a bitterly polarized Catholic Church and some Francis critics, including Vigano, are calling for the pope to step down.

The letter was the latest dramatic development stemming from a fresh wave of allegations related to clergy sex abuse and its cover up. Rumors that had swirled for decades about former D.C. archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and adults exploded in June when McCarrick was accused of groping a teenage altar boy. Pope Francis suspended McCarrick, who was soon accused of sexually abusing another boy, and of harassing and inappropriately touching seminarians and a young priest.

Date: 07/27/08 Location: Hilton Washington Hotel., DC Caption: Comprehensive immigration reform was the major topic at 2008 National Migration Conference, Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice. The issue of immigration is one of the most controversial domestic concerns facing our country, said Kevin Appleby, director of Migration and Refugee Policy at the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Holly father spoke about the human side of the issue several times during his April visit. En la foto: Theodore Cardinal McCarrick(C), Archbishop Emeritus Archdiocese of Washington, DC . Import to Merlin 27 July 2008.

Last month, McCarrick became the first U.S. cardinal in history to resign.

Vigano, 77, was the Holy See’s apostolic nuncio, or ambassador, in Washington from 2011 until 2016. He has been a lightning rod within the Vatican who lost a power struggle in Rome under Benedict, emerged as a Francis critic, and reportedly ordered the halt of an investigation into the alleged sexual relations between an archbishop in Minnesota and seminarians.

Projections showing victims of clerical abused are seen on the General Post Office (GPO) as part of a protest, ahead of a visit by Pope Francis, in Dublin, Ireland August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Vigano’s letter said that McCarrick had been privately sanctioned under Pope Benedict XVI — though only after years of warnings about his alleged behavior. The warnings that Vigano describes dealt with McCarrick’s alleged behavior toward seminarians and young priests — not toward minors.

Vigano’s letter says in 2013, he met Francis months into his papacy and told him face to face that there was “a dossier this thick about [McCarrick].” He says he then told Francis about Benedict’s order that McCarrick remove himself from public life.

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER, 23: Pope Francis reaches out to hug Cardinal Archbishop emeritus Theodore McCarrick after the Midday Prayer of the Divine with more than 300 U.S. Bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

McCarrick never pulled away from public life until this summer and was more of a high-profile figure after he retired in 2006, representing the church in prominent foreign diplomatic efforts in places like China and Iran.

“He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance,” Vigano says he told Francis. “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.”

Faithfuls watch a giant monitor as Pope Francis’ speaks at the Knock Shrine, in Knock, Ireland, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. Pope Francis is on a two-day visit to Ireland. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Vigano also alleges in that conversation that Francis told him American bishops “must not be ideologized, they must not be right-wing.. and they must not be left-wing, and when I say left-wing I mean homosexual.”

It wasn’t possible to reach Benedict or his representatives right away. Francis has not commented previously about what he was ever told about McCarrick, and Sunday morning his spokesman Greg Burke did not respond to a request seeking comment.

Pope Francis prays inside St Mary’s Pro Cathedral during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/Pool TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

This summer several clerics said they had communicated to Vatican representatives years ago concern about the rumors, and about the case of a New Jersey priest whose private letters allege his life was ruined by McCarrick’s sexual behavior. The priest reached a $100,000 settlement in 2006 with the church in New Jersey, The New York Times reported this summer. He was himself removed amid allegations of inappropriately touching minors and has not responded to efforts by the Post to be interviewed.

The Post and other outlets this summer quoted several clerics who said they’d alerted the Vatican about the rumors of misconduct against McCarrick, which have been on conservative blogs and those of several anti-abuse advocates for decades. The unanswered question has been: Who in the Vatican knew what?

An aide adjusts Pope Francis’ cape as he delivers his speech at the Knock Shrine, in Knock, Ireland, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

What’s new in Vigano’s letter is his allegation that Pope Benedict knew of the allegations and sometime in 2009 or 2010 had ordered McCarrick to halt behaving as a priest in public life and to “dedicate himself to a life of prayer and penance.”

Vigano says he was told this by a high-ranking Italian cleric, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.

People take part in a protest during the visit of Pope Francis to Dublin, Ireland, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

At the time Vigano was a delegate within the Secretary of State’s office, working with the Vatican’s embassies around the world. He says in his letter that his job included “the examination of delicate cases, including those regarding cardinals and bishops.”

Vigano was sent to Washington – reportedly as punishment – in 2011 and was there until May 2016. He arranged a hugely controversial meeting between Francis and an American woman, Kim Davis, who had lost her job as a municipal clerk for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Allies of Francis alleged he set up the pope during a high-profile U.S. visit, and that Francis didn’t intend to affirm Davis’ cause.

WASHINGTON, DC MARCH 24: Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s ambassador to the US, finishes washing the foot of Sister Antonia Sanchez, 65, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday, March 24, 2016, in Washington, DC. This day marked the first time the Basilica has included women in the annual foot washing ceremony done on Maundy Thursday, during Holy Week. While practices have varied and many parishes in the West have long included women, Pope Francis officially said for the first time in January that women’s feet could be washed. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The letter also includes an allegation against D.C.’s current archbishop — McCarrick’s immediate successor — Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Wuerl is a close ally of Francis and is already under scrutiny following a grand jury report in Pennsylvania about clerical child sex abuse in Pennsylvania and alleged coverup. Wuerl for years led the diocese of Pittsburgh.

Vigano is vague in the allegation against Wuerl. He says “it is unthinkable” that previous Vatican ambassadors to D.C. hadn’t told Wuerl.

WASHINGTON, DC MARCH 24: Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s ambassador to the US, reads a sermon about foot washing at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday, March 24, 2016, in Washington, DC. This day marked the first time the Basilica has included women in the annual foot washing ceremony done on Maundy Thursday, during Holy Week. While practices have varied and many parishes in the West have long included women, Pope Francis officially said for the first time in January that women’s feet could be washed. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Wuerl’s spokesman, Ed McFadden, Saturday night denied the report.

“Cardinal Wuerl was never informed of any action taken by the Holy See, was never provided documentation of any kind. If the claim is that Cardinal Wuerl was made aware of this so-called suspension, he was never made aware of that,” McFadden said. He repeated Wuerl’s previous statements that the cardinal didn’t know of allegations against McCarrick, nor of the two legal settlements by adult accusers that came out this summer. “No, never. He knew nothing until the formal announcement [this summer] that a substantiated claim had been made.”

A girl ties baby shoes to a fence as a part of a protest to highlight child abuse at the hands of the Catholic church, during the visit of Pope Francis to Dublin, Ireland, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Victims and Catholics around the world have been demanding more transparency from Pope Francis and the church in general, and that clerics who covered up for priest-abusers be held accountable.

The letter says Francis “must honestly state when he first learned about the crimes committed by McCarrick, who abused his authority with seminarians and priests.

FILE – In this Nov. 14, 2011 file photo, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick prays during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall assembly in Baltimore. Recent revelations of sexual misconduct and cover-up in the U.S. Catholic Church have revived the sense of betrayal that devastated the American church’s credibility after the first wave of scandal hit in 2002. But the U.S. is by no means alone: Revelations of Catholic priests who raped and molested children, and of bishops who covered up for them, have erupted on nearly every continent in recent years. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

McCarrick’s attorney, Barry Coburn, Sunday morning declined to comment.

The accusations come as Francis makes a high-profile trip to Ireland, a country that has been deeply scared by generations of church-related abuse.

Protester holds a banner during Pope Francis’ visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities — bishops, religious superiors, priests and others — to adequately address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage, and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community,” Francis said on Saturday to start a two-day trip. “I myself share these sentiments.”

Pope Francis prays in front of a candle lit to remember victims of abuse by the church, inside St Mary’s Pro Cathedral during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/Pool TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Pitrelli reported from Moena, Italy. Boorstein reported from Washington. Julie Zauzmer contributed.


Courtesy: Washington Post

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here