A former top Vatican official has accused Pope Francis of having known of allegations of sex abuse by a prominent US cardinal for five years before accepting his resignation last month, and has called on the pontiff to resign.
In an 11-page letter given to conservative Roman Catholic media outlets during the Pope’s visit to Ireland, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano said he had told Pope Francis in 2013 Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had faced extensive accusations of sexually abusing lower ranking seminarians and priests.
Vatican officials declined to make an immediate comment on the letter on Sunday.
McCarrick became the first cardinal in living memory to resign his position in the church leadership, after a review concluded claims he had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy were credible.
He was one of the highest ranking church officials accused of sex abuse in a scandal that has rocked the 1.2 billion member faith since reports of priests abusing children – and bishops covering up for them – were first published by The Boston Globe in 2002.
Since then, patterns of widespread abuse of children have been reported across the United States and Europe, in Chile and Australia, undercutting the church’s moral authority and taking a toll on its membership and finances.
Mr Vigano said, in the letter reported by the conservative US National Catholic Register, he had told Pope Francis of allegations against McCarrick in June 2013, shortly after the new pontiff’s election as pope by his fellow cardinals.
“He knew from at least 23 June, 2013, that McCarrick was a serial predator,” said Mr Vigano, who served as the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States at the time.
“Pope Francis 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.”
Mr Vigano’s letter railed against “homosexual networks present in the church” – the word “homosexual” appears 18 times, while the word “child” appears only twice, in both cases in the titles of church documents Mr Vigano sites.
Pope Francis vowed, on Saturday, to end the sexual exploitation of children by clergy during a highly charged visit to Ireland and, according to victims, said the corruption and cover up of abuse amounted to human excrement.