Vatican defends pope against 'blasphemous' coverup claims

  • Vatican defends pope against 'blasphemous' coverup claims

Vatican defends pope against 'blasphemous' coverup claims

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".

However, because they were only rumors and not proof, then-Pope Benedict XVI never imposed formal sanctions on the retired Washington prelate, which means Pope Francis never lifted them, Cardinal Ouellet wrote October 7 in an open letter to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Vatican nuncio to the United States.

Cardinal Ouellet's letter, written with the approval of Pope Francis, was published the day after the Vatican said the pope had ordered a "thorough study of the entire documentation present in the archives of the dicasteries and offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively".

Ouellet said Francis did not hide sexual abuse by McCarrick and had "strong doubts" that the pope understood the gravity of the case.

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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 meant to incriminate the pope and I repeat, that it has profoundly wounded the communion of the Church".

Ouellet's letter did acknowledge that McCarrick was subject to disciplinary measures; however, the call to a life of prayer was cut short due to the lack of evidence of the rumors.

The scandal has created a crisis in confidence in the US hierarchy because it was apparently an open secret that McCarrick, now 88, would invite seminarians to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed.

The Vatican knew as early as 2000 that seminarians complained that McCarrick pressured them to sleep with him.

In July, McCarrick became the first cardinal to resign in nearly 100 years after American Church officials said allegations made in a separate investigation that he had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy almost 50 years ago were credible and substantiated. Since then, another man has come forward saying McCarrick molested him when he was a young teen.

The public record, however, is rife with evidence that McCarrick lived a life devoid of any sanction from 2009 onwards.

"After a review of the archives, I find that there are no documents signed by either pope in this regard, and there are no audience notes from my predecessor, Cardinal Giovanni-Battista Re, imposing on the retired archbishop the obligation to lead a quiet and private life with the weight normally reserved to canonical penalties", Ouellet wrote.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet said in the detailed, three-page letter that calls by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano for the pope to resign because he had allegedly covered up sexual misconduct by a senior American churchman were "calumny and defamation".

Vigano, in an August 26 letter, accused Francis of rehabilitating McCarrick from canonical sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 or 2010. "The reason is that back then, unlike today, there was not sufficient proof of his alleged culpability". But he said Francis effectively rehabilitated McCarrick and made him a trusted counselor.

Ouellet said he understood that Vigano might be bitter at the way his own career ended, a reference to Vigano's disappointment - expressed in leaked letters in 2012 - that he was never made a cardinal as he claimed he had been promised.

He urged Vigano to "Come out of hiding, repent for your revolt and return to better feelings toward the Holy Father instead of worsening hostility against him".