The former Vatican ambassador to the United States who sparked a firestorm in the Catholic Church last month by writing a letter accusing Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis of knowledge of a sexual harasser has published a second letter, attacking Pope Francis again.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò renewed his charge that Francis knew since at least 2013 that then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had sexually harassed young men, but that Francis chose to allow McCarrick to remain an influential leader in the church.
In the month since Viganò’s first letter, Francis has largely declined to answer the former nuncio’s allegations. He told journalists to deeply consider the facts of the case, and he has made several broad remarks about accusations, but he has never directly denied or discussed Viganò’s claim he knew about McCarrick’s behavior.
In his new letter, posted online on Thursday, Viganò said he sees that silence as proof of guilt: “Neither the pope, nor any of the cardinals in Rome have denied the facts I asserted in my testimony. ‘Qui tacet consentit’ surely applies here,” he wrote, using a Latin term meaning “He who is silent, agrees.” He continued: “If they deny my testimony, they have only to say so, and provide documentation to support that denial. How can one avoid concluding that the reason they do not provide the documentation is that they know it confirms my testimony?”
McCarrick’s abuses came to light in June, when he was removed from ministry because of a former altar boy’s allegation that McCarrick molested him almost 50 years ago when he was a teenager preparing for a Christmas service. In the weeks that followed, another man said he was abused as a minor by McCarrick, and reports that McCarrick harassed adult seminarians and priests surfaced as well. The 88-year-old prelate, who had served as archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006, resigned from the College of Cardinals in July, the first cardinal ever to quit because of sexual abuse allegations.
Catholics already rattled by McCarrick’s shocking resignation were further shaken by a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August, which documented abuse by more than 300 priests and which has inspired attorneys general across the nation to open investigations of the Catholic Church. And then came Viganò’s letter.
In his new treatise Thursday, he tried to explain why he felt the need to come forward to reveal sins in the church, even as he recognized the seriousness of criticizing the pope. “My decision to reveal those grave facts was for me the most painful and serious decision that I have ever made in my life. I made it after long reflection and prayer, during months of profound suffering and anguish,” he wrote.
He stood by his decision in the new letter, written under the heading “Scio cui credidi,” a Latin phrase from the New Testament meaning “I know whom I have believed.”
He also urged cardinals to join him in his crusade to reveal what Francis knew about McCarrick, something that so far most leaders of the church have declined to do. Specifically, he said that Cardinal Marc Ouellet, because of his role in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, has documents that can verify what Francis knew, and he asked him to make those documents public.
Viganò also urged an accounting of Francis’s most recent approach to the McCarrick case from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the U.S. bishops, who recently met with Francis at the Vatican.
Before that meeting, DiNardo had called for a Vatican investigation into McCarrick. Several days after the meeting, the U.S. bishops said they would investigate McCarrick’s conduct themselves and announced a set of new procedures for handling abuse committed by bishops — suggesting to many observers that Francis had denied DiNardo’s request for a Vatican-led inquiry in the United States.