Former papal nuncio (ambassador) to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, has unleashed a new controversy on the Vatican as he claimed in an open letter that Pope Francis was aware of the sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI’s sanctions against him, and yet did nothing to punish but went to elevate him to a position where he was helping choose powerful American Bishops. Vigano has also called for the resignation of the Pope.
Benedict had been made aware of McCarrick’s transgressions as well, the letter claims but failed to act immediately. It was only after years of delay that sanctions were issued against him. McCarrick was revealed to have abused generation of seminarians and young priests and is accused of abusing at least two minors. He was removed from active ministry in June and faces an ecclesiastical trial. He has been ordered by the Vatican to remain in penitential seclusion until that time.
The letter by Vigano, translated by Lifesite News to English, begins with the ominous declaration, “Bishops and priests, abusing their authority, have committed horrendous crimes to the detriment of their faithful, minors, innocent victims, and young men eager to offer their lives to the Church, or by their silence have not prevented that such crimes continue to be perpetrated.”
Calling for Pope Francis’s resignation, Vigano wrote in the letter, “A chorus of voices is rising especially from the lay faithful and has recently been joined by several bishops and priests, asking that all those who, by their silence, covered up McCarrick’s criminal behavior, or who used him to advance their career or promote their intentions, ambitions and power in the Church, should resign.”
The letter also compares the Catholic Church to a mafia, a mafia that has been preying on innocent children for decades. “To restore the beauty of holiness to the face of the Bride of Christ, which is terribly disfigured by so many abominable crimes, and if we truly want to free the Church from the fetid swamp into which she has fallen, we must have the courage to tear down the culture of secrecy and publicly confess the truths we have kept hidden. We must tear down the conspiracy of silence with which bishops and priests have protected themselves at the expense of their faithful, a conspiracy of silence that in the eyes of the world risks making the Church look like a sect, a conspiracy of silence not so dissimilar from the one that prevails in the mafia.”
The letter also claims that a huge scandal is about to surface in Honduras. “In Honduras, a scandal as huge as the one in Chile is about to be repeated. The Pope defends his man, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, to the bitter end, as he had done in Chile with Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros, whom he himself had appointed Bishop of Osorno against the advice of the Chilean Bishops. First, he insulted the abuse victims. Then, only when he was forced by the media, and a revolt by the Chilean victims and faithful, did he recognize his error and apologize while stating that he had been misinformed, causing a disastrous situation for the Church in Chile, but continuing to protect the two Chilean Cardinals Errazuriz and Ezzati.”
The claims in the open letter are, however, unsubstantiated and certain people have claimed that Vigano’s claims in the letter are a consequence of an internal power struggle in the Church. Michael Sean Winters, who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, said, “Vigano is a disgruntled former employee. But, make no mistake: This is a coordinated attack on Pope Francis. A putsch is afoot and if the U.S. bishops do not, as a body, stand up to defend the Holy Father in the next 24 hours, we shall be slipping towards schism…. The enemies of Francis have declared war.”
The timing of the letter cannot be ignored as well. The letter was published when Pope Francis is on a tour of Ireland where has made several apologies regarding the clerical sexual abuse in the once staunchly Catholic country. He stated during one of his speeches, “I beg the Lord’s forgiveness for these sins and for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many others in God’s family.” The claims made by Vigano, which the Pope has refused to comment on, will have a profound impact on the Pope’s credibility and will only serve to further the mistrust of the institution in the minds of the people.
Vigano was removed from the position of nuncio to the United States in 2016. He belongs to a more conservative faction within the Church which has profound differences with the Pope regarding the direction the Church should take. Vigano belongs to the section of priests who blame homosexuality for the menace of child sex abuse the Church is faced with. “The seriousness of homosexual behaviour must be denounced. The homosexual networks present in the Church must be eradicated,” claims the letter. The letter also accuses high ranking officials of deliberating promoting homosexuals to positions of power.
Apart from the Pope, Vigano has accused Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Bishop Paul Bootkoski, Cardinal Kevil Farrell, Cardinal Sean O’Malley and a host of other high-ranking officials of being involved in an elaborate cover-up of the crimes committed by McCarrick. It is disgusting to imagine that high ranking officials within the Church are willing to use sexual abuse and predatory behaviour by priests as weapons in an internal power struggle within the Church but considering the moral depravity the Church has sunk to, it remains a distinct possibility.