Pope Francis claims he will “not say one word” about the allegations from a retired Vatican official, Carlo Maria Viganò, stating he attempted to cover up evidence of sexual abuse from as early as two decades ago and that he should resign.
The pope spoke to reporters while returning to Rome and said the testimony from Archbishop Viganò “speaks for itself” and he also urged people to read the material. “You have sufficient journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions.”
In an 11-page letter, the former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. says he warned Pope Francis about the accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse by Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington. The document also included a long list of other Vatican and U.S. officials that he says had been told about McCarrick’s inappropriate behavior.
Slate reports that part of the letter mentions that Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, punished McCarrick by refusing him certain privileges and that Francis reversed that decision. But supporters of Francis have noted that it hasn’t been proven McCarrick was given any punishment by Benedict XVI at all.
In July, Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation as a cardinal while also authorizing his removal from public ministry after allegations that he sexually abused a minor. He is now facing a church trial.
According to Yahoo News UK, the letter was originally published by the National Catholic Register and only given to a few conservative Catholic websites. But now it’s being shared among groups that are unhappy with Pope Francis’ leadership.
But as The Atlantic points out, Viganò has had a long, troubled history with the pope. In 2011 he was appointed the Vatican’s U.S. ambassador and he mostly kept a low profile. But some accused him of breaking protocol by appearing at an anti-gay marriage rally. Viganò was removed from his post as the apostolic nuncio in 2016 after being involved in a minor scandal. He arranged a visit between the pope and Kim Davis, the clerk from Kentucky who refused to perform gay marriages. Later the Vatican attempted to distance itself from this event.
Pope Francis has also received significant criticism. Progressives in the Church feel he hasn’t done enough to address the issues of sexual abuse. Some countries have taken steps to put safety measures in place but many feel those measures have been poorly implemented.
As of right now, the sexual-abuse crisis is extremely important not only for the future of the Catholic Church but for the reputation of the pope. What he chooses to do and how he deals with it will have long-lasting effects on his legacy.