The Vatican's retired ambassador to the United States accused senior Vatican officials of knowing as early as 2000 that the disgraced former archbishop of Washington, ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, regularly invited seminarians into his bed but was made a cardinal regardless.
The letter, an extraordinary j'accuse from a one-time Holy See diplomat, also accuses Pope Francis of being informed of McCarrick's penchant for young seminarians in 2013 but of having rehabilitated him — a claim of cover-up against the pope himself.
The National Catholic Register and another conservative site, LifeSiteNews, published the letter attributed to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano on Sunday as the pope was wrapping up a two-day visit to Ireland dominated by the clerical sex abuse and cover-up scandal.
Vigano, 77, a conservative whose hard-line anti-gay views are well known, urged the reformist pope to resign over the issue and what he called the conspiracy of silence about McCarrick. He and the pope have long been on opposite ideological sides, with the pope more a pastor and Vigano more a cultural warrior.
Vigano accused the former Vatican secretaries of state under the previous two popes of having ignored detailed denunciations against McCarrick for years. He said Pope Benedict XVI eventually sanctioned McCarrick in 2009 or 2010 to a lifetime of penance and prayer, but that Francis subsequently rehabilitated him.
Francis accepted McCarrick's resignation as cardinal last month, after a U.S. church investigation determined that an accusation he had sexually abused a minor was credible.
Since then, another man has come forward saying McCarrick began molesting him starting when he was 11, and several former seminarians have said McCarrick abused and harassed them when they were in seminary. The accusations have led to a crisis in confidence in the U.S. hierarchy, because it was apparently an open secret that McCarrick regularly invited seminarians to his New Jersey beach house, and into his bed.
Vigano in his letter identifies by name the Vatican cardinals and archbishops who were informed about the McCarrick affair, an unthinkable expose for a Vatican diplomat to make. He said documents backing up his version of events are in Vatican archives.
Vigano, the Vatican's ambassador to the United States from 2011-2016, said his two immediate predecessors did not fail to inform the Holy See about accusations against McCarrick, starting in 2000. He said Francis asked him about McCarrick when they met on June 23, 2013, at the Vatican's Santa Marta hotel where the pope lives, three months after Francis was elected pope.
Vigano wrote that he told Francis: Holy Father, I don't know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation of Bishops, there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.
Vigano wrote he was surprised to find that McCarrick started traveling on missions on behalf of the church soon thereafter, including to China. McCarrick was also one of the Vatican's intermediaries in the U.S.-Cuba talks in 2014.