The Vatican’s former ambassador to the US, Archbishop Carlo Viganò, unleashed an ecclesial earthquake inside the Catholic Church in the US, Rome and Ireland yesterday, releasing an 11-page testimony calling on Pope Francis to resign for covering up former Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s multiple sexual assaults.
Archbishop Viganò — who was Apostolic Nuncio to the US from 2011 to 2016 — and has also served in Nigeria, said Pope Benedict XVI had acted in the late 2000s, secretly forbidding McCarrick from celebrating Mass or leaving the grounds of the seminary where he lived. Benedict acted as a result of serious accusations of sexual abuse against McCarrick.
But Francis, who replaced Benedict in March 2013, lifted the restrictions and brought McCarrick back into favour, Archbishop Viganò said. The pope made him a “trusted counsellor” advising him on key appointments, including the controversial liberal cardinal in the US, Blase Cupich.
“Pope Francis has repeatedly asked for total transparency in the Church and for bishops and faithful,’’ Archbishop Viganò said.
“The Pope learned about it from me on June 23, 2013 and continued to cover for him. He did not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on him and made him his trusted counsellor.
“In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church, he (Pope Francis) 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.’’
A month ago, Francis ordered McCarrick removed from public ministry amid allegations the 88-year-old cardinal sexually abused a teenage altar boy. Francis ordered McCarrick to a “life of prayer and penance”.
Francis acted after a church investigation found an allegation that McCarrick had abused a teenager almost 50 years ago in New York was “credible and substantiated’’. The son of a McCarrick family friend, who identified himself as James, came forward to allege he was 11 when “Uncle Ted” first exposed himself to him almost 50 years ago, the start of a sexually abusive relationship that lasted for two decades.
“I was the first guy he baptised,” James told AP. “I was his little boy. I was his special kid.”
It also emerged that a former priest had received $80,000 and a former seminarian $100,000 in compensation in 2005 and 2007 after satisfying church authorities in New Jersey that they had been abused by Cardinal McCarrick.
Archbishop Viganò, an Italian, was appointed by Benedict to help clean up financial corruption in the Vatican, before being appointed to the US.
He spoke out as Francis was meeting sexual abuse victims in Ireland on the first visit to that country by a pope for 39 years.
He also named senior Vatican and Church officials who knew about McCarrick and covered up, including Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, former secretaries of state Angelo Sodano and Tarcisio Bertone (who has been accused of financial corruption involving millions of euros) and newly promoted Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who helped block key external and internal Vatican audits and who now runs the Congregations for the Causes of Saints.
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