A former high-ranking Vatican official says Pope Francis should step down from the papacy, because he knew about sexual abuse allegations against an influential American cardinal — and participated in covering them up.
Carlo Maria Viganò, a former papal nuncio (an ambassador-like position) wrote an 11-page open letter alleging that both Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, knew about decades’ worth of allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington, DC. He was removed from active ministry in June and later resigned his cardinalship after revelations emerged that he had sexually abused generations’ worth of junior seminarians and young priests as a priest, then bishop in New Jersey. He is also accused of having sexually abused at least two minors.
McCarrick is currently facing an internal, ecclesiastical trial, and has been ordered by the Vatican to remain in penitential seclusion until that time. Due to the statute of limitations on his alleged offenses, he faces no criminal proceedings at this time.
In Viganò’s letter, which has been posted at the National Catholic Register and Lifesite News, Viganò alleges that, while McCarrick’s behavior toward adults was an open secret in the Vatican, many high-level officials, including Francis himself, conspired to keep McCarrick in active ministry (the letter makes no mention of any knowledge about McCarrick’s abuses against children).
If true, the letter represents one of the most explosive revelations to emerge out of the Catholic clerical sex abuse scandal. The suggestion that Pope Francis knew about McCarrick’s offenses, and nevertheless chose to break with his predecessor in order to rehabilitate him — the first time a pope has been directly implicated in participating in a coverup during his papacy — could torpedo Francis’s papacy. Already, Viganò is calling for Francis’s resignation.