The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said he was “eager for an audience” with Pope Francis to gain his support for the bishops’ plan to respond to the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
In an Aug. 27 statement, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston also said the questions raised by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former nuncio to the United States, in a letter published by two Catholic media outlets “deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence.”
“Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusations and the guilty may be left to repeat the sins of the past,” the cardinal said.
In his 11-page letter, first published by Lifesite News and National Catholic Register Aug. 26, Archbishop Vigano accused Church officials, including Pope Francis, of failing to act on accusations of abuse of conscience and power by now-Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick. Archbishop Vigano claimed he told Pope Francis about Cardinal McCarrick in 2013.
Pope Francis said Archbishop Vigano’s long document calling on him to resign is written in a way that people should be able to draw their own conclusions.
“I read the statement this morning and, sincerely, I must say this to you and anyone interested: Read that statement attentively and make your own judgment,” he told reporters Aug. 26. “I think the statement speaks for itself, and you have a sufficient journalistic ability to make a conclusion.”
Speaking to reporters traveling back to Rome with him from Dublin, the pope said his lack of comment was “an act of faith” in people reading the document. “Maybe when a bit of time has passed, I’ll talk about it.”
Asked directly when he first learned of the former Cardinal McCarrick’s sexual abuse, Pope Francis said the question was related directly to Archbishop Vigano’s report and he would not comment now.
In June, the Vatican announced that the pope had ordered the retired Washington archbishop to live in “prayer and penance” while a canonical process proceeds against him. The pope later accepted Archbishop McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals.
Archbishop Vigano, who served as nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016, wrote that he was compelled to write his knowledge of Archbishop McCarrick’s misdeeds because “corruption has reached the very top of the Church’s hierarchy.”
Archbishop Vigano confirmed to the Washington Post Aug. 26 that he wrote the letter.
Citing the rights of the faithful to “know who knew and who covered up (Archbishop McCarrick’s) grave misdeeds,” Archbishop Vigano named nearly a dozen former and current Vatican officials who he claimed were aware of the accusations.
According to the former nuncio’s testimony, the Vatican was informed in 2000 of allegations that Archbishop McCarrick “shared his bed with seminarians” by two former U.S. nuncios—Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo and Archbishop Pietro Sambi. This corresponds to remarks by Father Boniface Ramsey, pastor of St. Joseph’s parish in the Yorkville section of Manhattan, who told Catholic News Service earlier in August he had written a letter “and it didn’t seem to go anywhere.”
Archbishop Vigano said that in 2006, as the official in the Secretariat of State that coordinated relations with nunciatures around the world, he sent two memos recommending that the Holy See “intervene as soon as possible by removing the cardinal’s hat from Cardinal McCarrick and that he should be subjected to the sanctions established by the Code of Canon Law.”
“I was greatly dismayed at my superiors for the inconceivable absence of any measure against the cardinal, and for the continuing lack of any communication with me since my first memo in December 2006,” he said.
The former nuncio claimed that Pope Benedict XVI later “imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis.”
“I do not know when Pope Benedict took these measures against McCarrick, whether in 2009 or 2010, because in the meantime I had been transferred to the Governorate of Vatican City State, just as I do not know who was responsible for this incredible delay,” he said.
Then-Cardinal McCarrick, he said, “was to leave the seminary where he was living” which, at the time, was the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Archbishop McCarrick, he added, 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.”
No such sanctions, which normally are made public, were announced by the Vatican at the time.
Cardinal Blase N. Cupich of Chicago said he considered “astonishing” one sentence in the archbishop’s 7,000-word document, which said: “The appointments of Blase Cupich to Chicago and (Cardinal) Joseph W. Tobin to Newark were orchestrated by McCarrick, (Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez) Maradiaga (of Tegucigalpa, Honduras) and (Cardinal Donald W.) Wuerl (of Washington), united by a wicked pact of abuses by the first, and at least of cover-up of abuses by the other two. Their names were not among those presented by the nunciature for Chicago and Newark.”
“The only substantial conversation I have ever had about my appointment to Chicago with the former nuncio was on Sept. 11, 2014, when he called to inform me of the appointment. The former nuncio started the conversation by saying: ‘I call with news of great joy. The Holy Father has appointed you the archbishop of Chicago.’ He then congratulated me upon hearing of my acceptance,” Cardinal Cupich said in an Aug. 26 statement.
Cardinal Tobin, in a separate statement, said, “The factual errors, innuendo and fearful ideology of the ‘testimony’ serve to strengthen our conviction to move ahead resolutely in protecting the young and vulnerable from any sort of abuse, while guaranteeing a safe and respectful environment where all are welcome and breaking down the structures and cultures that enable abuse.”
He added, “Together with Pope Francis, we are confident that scrutiny of the claims of the former nuncio will help to establish the truth.”
Contacted by Catholic News Service, Edward McFadden, secretary for communications for the Archdiocese of Washington, said: “In spite of what Archbishop Vigano’s memo indicates, Cardinal Wuerl did not receive any documentation or information during his time in Washington, regarding any actions taken against Archbishop McCarrick.”
In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo reiterated an Aug. 16 call for an apostolic visitation, working with a national lay commission granted independent authority, to investigate the “many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick.”
He also said he convened members of the USCCB Executive Committee Aug. 26, who “reaffirmed the call for a prompt and thorough examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement.”
The plan earlier outlined by Cardinal DiNardo also called for detailed proposals to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier and improve procedures for resolving complaints against bishops.
The statement explained how since 2002, professionally trained staff have worked with the U.S. Church to support survivors and prevent future abuse. He pointed to the steps the Church has put in place in response to abuse including the zero-tolerance policy regarding clergy abuse: safe environment training in diocesan offices, parishes and schools, background checks for Church workers and volunteers working around children, victim assistance coordinators, prompt reporting to civil authorities and diocesan lay review boards.
“We will do better. The more she is buffeted by storms, the more I am reminded that the Church’s firm foundation is Jesus Christ. The failures of men cannot diminish the light of the Gospel.”—CNS