Carlo Maria Viganò was Secretary-General of Vatican City from 2009-2011. Then, until 2016, he was the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. Now, in 2018, he has issued an eleven page document accusing Pope Francis of knowingly accepting a known sexual abuser into his personal circle: Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
The statement, simply titled ‘Testimony’, is about as damning as anything that Francis could face. In no uncertain terms, he states that Francis ‘continued to cover’ for McCarrick despite his known history of sexual abuse, and in spite of sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict XVI. Furthermore, he accuses three Secretary of States of also protecting McCarrick: Angelo Sodano, Tarcisio Bertone, and Pietro Parolin, as well as other prominent Catholic officials who knew of McCarrick’s crimes and said nothing.
The further along the document goes, the worse it becomes. He accuses Francis of claiming that the Bishops of America ‘must not be ideologized…and they must not be left-wing…and when I say left-wing I mean homosexual.’ This from the man, I’d like to remind you, who has become the media’s sweetheart for his supposed acceptance of homosexuals.
He describes how Francis did not react to Viganò’s grave disclosure that McCarrick was a known sexual abuser, later admitting him to his inner circle, and giving him the freedom to make Curia appointments. Allow me to quote this pivotal passage in full:
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; indeed, he made McCarrick’s advice his own, which was certainly not inspired by sound intentions and for love of the Church.
There is no ambiguity here, neither in his description of Francis’s protection of a sexual predator, nor in his disclosure that the Pope willingly, and in full knowledge of the facts of the cases at hand, further accepted into his fold certain people known to protect sexual abusers. One needs not to be Catholic, simply a lover of mankind, to be utterly appalled by these allegations.
But what, I hear you ask, does all this actually mean for Pope Francis? If these allegations are proven, Viganò’s Testimony not lacking in detail, things do not look good for the ‘Holy’ Father. It is perfectly possible that, should enough Cardinals organise themselves, he can be removed from his position, and for this removal to be done so in full accordance with Church Law.
Of course, Francis does not actually need to be removed by force. In his letter, Viganò writes that the Pope ‘must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them.’ This call has been echoed by the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, who has written to the people of his diocese saying that Vigano ‘must be taken seriously.’
It is not just Catholic officials whose anger is seeping overboard. Over 23,000 Catholic women have written an open letter to the Pope demanding that he provides answers at this dark time in the Church’s history. It is an open challenge, and one that Francis cannot justify ignoring.
This is not, as most of the controversies surrounding his papacy have been, a question of doctrine, or a battle between the conservative and liberal factions of the Catholic Church. This is something that throws politics aside, and puts the very essence of humanity under the glaring heat of the spotlight.
The question is simple: how much longer will people sit idly by, and accept these events as ‘one of those things’? Because the longer we wait, the more morally complicit we become.