A top Vatican cardinal on Sunday described claims by an archbishop who accused Pope Francis of covering up the sexual misconduct of a prominent American cardinal as “blasphemous” and a political “frame job.”
Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet released a three-page letter that he said was his own “testimony” on the scandals surrounding ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and accuser Carlo Maria Vigano, an Italian Archbishop. He addressed the letter to his “fellow brother” Vigano but marked as an open letter to the faithful.
Vigano, who served as the papal ambassador in the United States from 2011 to 2016 under Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, made his charges in an 11-page letter released Aug. 25.
Ouellet said Francis did not conceal sexual abuse by McCarrick and had “strong doubts” that the pope understood the gravity of the case.
“Imagine the enormous amount of both verbal and written information that he would have received on that occasion on many persons and situations,” the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops wrote.
Vigano said spoke to Francis during a meeting with papal envoys from all over the world on June 23, 2013.
“I strongly doubt that McCarrick would have interested him to the point that you want people to believe, since at the time he was an 82-year old archbishop emeritus, and for seven years had not had a job.”
Ouellet said since he took over for the Vatican’s office for bishops in 2010, he never brought up McCarrick with Benedict or Francis until recently.
McCarrick had been asked by his predecessor, Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, to avoid public appearances and stay out of the spotlight, Ouellet said.
But neither Benedict nor Francis had ever signed a letter of sanctions because did not have enough evidence to prove his guilt, Ouellet said.
In July, Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation as a cardinal after a U.S. church investigation determined that he groped a teenage altar boy in the 1970s. Another man later said McCarrick molested him when he was a young teen and other men have said they were harassed by McCarrick when they were adult seminarians and priests.
He said he hoped that investigations by the U.S. bishops and by the Vatican would “finally offer us an overall critical view of the procedures and circumstances of this painful case, so that such facts are not repeated in the future.”
Regarding Vigano, he said “in response to your unjust and unjustified attack, I conclude that the accusation is a political frame job without a real foundation intended to incriminate the pope and I repeat, that it has profoundly wounded the communion of the Church.”
And he urged Ouellet not to end his priestly life “in open and scandalous rebellion, which inflicts a very painful wound on the spouse of Christ, which you pretend to serve better, aggravating the division and confusion of the People of God!”
On Saturday, the Vatican announced it was carrying out a “further thorough study” of the McCarrick case by examining documentation.
The goal of the further study is “to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively,” a Vatican statement said.