America Latest News

Former nuncio: Pope Francis knew about McCarrick but withdrew sanctions

(Photo by Jonathan Newton-Pool/Getty Images)

A former nuncio to the US has claimed Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed by Benedict XVI on then-Cardinal McCarrick but chose to remove them.

In an 11-page testimony released to Catholic media, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò said Pope Benedict had imposed on McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed by Pope Francis, and that Viganò personally told Pope Francis about them in 2013.

The archbishop says Pope Francis “continued to cover” for McCarrick to the extent that he not only failed to “take into account” the sanctions but also made McCarrick “his trusted counsellor”.

Archbishop Viganò claims McCarrick then advised Pope Francis to appoint several senior bishops, including Cardinal Cupich in Chicago and Cardinal Tobin in Newark.

The former nuncio ended his testimony by calling on the Pope to resign, along with all the bishops who “covered up” for McCarrick.

Under the sanctions imposed by Benedict XVI, McCarrick “was to leave the seminary where he was living” and 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,” Archbishop Viganò said.

The archbishop, who served as nuncio to the US from 2011 to 2016, said he did not recall exactly when the sanctions were imposed, but they had been applied either in 2009 or 2010.

He described a meeting with Pope Francis on June 23, 2013, in which he told the Pope: “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.”

Archbishop Viganò writes that Pope Francis did not respond to this statement, and that McCarrick was able to resume his role as a public figure for the Church.

“Pope Francis has repeatedly asked for total transparency in the Church,” Vigano added. “He must honestly state when he first learned about the crimes committed by McCarrick, who abused his authority with seminarians and priests. In any case, the Pope learned about it from me on June 23, 2013 and continued to cover him.”

He said the original sanctions imposed by Benedict XVI only came about after much obfuscation from Vatican officials. He claimed Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, a previous nuncio to the US, first informed the Vatican about McCarrick as early as 2000, asking Fr Boniface Ramsey to write to Rome with details of the allegations.

Archbishop Viganò added that, in 2006, while serving as delegate for pontifical representations in the Secretariat of State, he personally wrote to his superior, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, proposing sanctions against McCarrick.

However, his request was ignored and in 2008 he wrote a second request to Cardinal Sandri’s successor as ‘sostituto’ at the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Fernando Filoni. Again, no action was taken until Pope Benedict XVI acted on a statement from Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and specialist in clerical sexual abuse.

“Benedict did what he had to do,” Archbishop Viganò told the National Catholic Register, “but his collaborators — the Secretary of State and all the others — didn’t enforce it as they should have done, which led to the delay.”

Archbishop Viganò said Cardinals Angelo Sondano and Tarcisio Bertone, secretaries of state under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, were complicit in the decision not to act sooner.

The archbishop recalled meeting McCarrick after being appointed nuncio to the US. “The cardinal, muttering in a barely comprehensible way, admitted that he had perhaps made the mistake of sleeping in the same bed with some seminarians at his beach house, but he said this as if it had no importance,” Viganò said.

He said McCarrick then went on to advise the Pope on the appointment of several senior bishops in the US Church, effectively overruling the nuncio. These include Cardinal Blase Cupich in Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Tobin in Newark and Bishop Robert McElroy in San Diego.

He goes on to say Cardinal Wuerl, current Archbishop of Washington, was fully aware of allegations against McCarrick: “I myself brought up the subject with Cardinal Wuerl on several occasions, and I certainly didn’t need to go into detail because it was immediately clear to me that he was fully aware of it.”

“His recent statements that he knew nothing about it … are absolutely laughable,” he added. “The cardinal lies shamelessly.”

In comments to the media on Saturday night, Archbishop Viganò said he wrote the testimony to “stop the suffering of the victims, to prevent new victims and to protect the Church: only the truth can make her free.”

He said he wanted to “discharge my conscience in front of God of my responsibilities as bishop for the universal Church.”

“The people of God have the right to know the full truth also regarding their shepherds,” he added. “They have the right to be guided by good shepherds. In order to be able to trust them and love them, they have to know them openly, in transparency and truth, as they really are. A priest should always be a light on a candle, everywhere and for all.”

The Archdiocese of Washington said Cardinal Wuerl categorically denies having been informed of sanctions against McCarrick.