Blind Faith: Archbishop Says He Told Pope of Sex Abuse Knowledge

Retired Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has urged Pope Francis to step down after revealing in an 11-page statement that he had personally informed the Pope of a pattern of sexual abuse by disgraced Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick, in 2013.

It was only Saturday that the polarizing Pope gave an address in Ireland condemning the “repugnant crimes” that have come to light steadily since the 1950s, exploding throughout the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. The recent release of a Pennsylvania jury report’s findings that 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children over 70 years in six dioceses left a particularly somber pall over Pope Francis’ visit to Dublin, where his words were met as more of the same.

"The failure of ecclesiastical authorities — bishops, religious superiors, priests and others — to adequately address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage, and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community," he told them. "I myself share these sentiments." (CBS News)

In the wake of the Pennsylvania court findings, Missouri has announced that it will open an investigation into clerical sexual abuse by representatives of the Catholic Church. It seems that with each new finding of widespread abuse by the Church and the seemingly inevitable, subsequent findings of institutional cover-up, the wounds of the past are re-opened. The Pope’s lukewarm reception in Ireland, one of the most heavily-concentrated bastions of Catholicism in the world, seemed to reflect the haunting reality that these revelations are unlikely to stop, and even the most faithful are being pushed to the brink.

"Disappointing, nothing new," was the reaction from Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins, a former member of Francis' sex abuse advisory panel who quit last year in frustration. She later took part in Francis' meeting with seven other abuse survivors, including two priests and a public official.

Colm O'Gorman, who is leading a solidarity rally on Sunday in Dublin for abuse victims, said Francis' remarks about sharing the shame felt by Catholics were an "insult to faithful Catholics, who have no reason to feel shame because of the crimes of the Vatican and the institutional church." (TBO)

Even those within the Church are seemingly no longer willing to engage in complicit silence, with one retired Archbishop coming clean Sunday with an 11-page statement in which he claims to have corresponded directly with Pope Francis regarding the dangers posed by Archbishop McCarrick. 77-year-old Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano has taken the unprecedented step of accusing the Pope of prior knowledge of sexual abuse, and of allowing Archbishop Theodore McCarrick to remain in a position of power until last Sunday while still maintaining his innocence.

Vigano’s statement is unequivocal. According to him, Pope Francis knew of McCarrick’s sexual abuse in June of 2013.

“Pope Francis has repeatedly asked for total transparency in the Church. 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.” (HPub)

It’s a stunning turn of events considering that, only a day before, the Pope was openly condemning the crimes, though it was a statement many openly dismissed as disingenuous. Vigano added that Donald Wuerl, the sitting cardinal of Washington, D.C. – where McCarrick operated for decades and where he allegedly abused numerous children – also knew of McCarrick’s misdeeds.

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

Vigano’s statements cannot come as a surprise considering the ambiguity and doublespeak in which Wuerl’s comments, issued prior to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, were shrouded.

“If there were allegations, we dealt with them immediately,” he said. “All the time that [McCarrick] was here and certainly all the time that I’ve been here, there was never any news. If I could tell you no one ever came to me and said this person did this to me. No one. No one. And remember, we were just talking about Pittsburgh. I was in Pittsburgh…we weren’t following the rumors of different parts of the country.”

If there were allegations”

“There was never any ‘news’”

“No one ever came to me and said this person did this to me”

“We weren’t following rumors in other parts of the country”

All of these statements absolutely stink of plausible deniability, but not believability. This has been the M.O. of the leadership of the Catholic Church since the first scandal broke, and it is this M.O. that makes Vigano’s allegations against both Wuerl and Pope Francis not only plausible, but highly believable.

The connection of a current Pope to allegations of willful ignorance at best, and a cover-up at worst, has never been so direct. The accuser – a retired Archbishop – has never been so closely tied to the Church, and thus as credible as Carlo Maria Vigano.

Vigano’s account leaves no room for misinterpretation.

“Even in the tragic affair of McCarrick, Pope Francis’s behavior was no different. He knew from at least June 23, 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator. Although he knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end;…It was only when he was forced by the report of the abuse of a minor, again on the basis of media attention, that he took action [regarding McCarrick] to save his image in the media.”

Call it baseless slander, or call it the logical conclusion of a pattern of behavior. Your choice is likely a matter of blind faith versus sound reason. 

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