An archbishop of the Catholic church and former apostolic nuncio to the United States wrote in a letter this week that Pope Francis himself was aware of the crimes committed in the U.S. and that he took active measures to hide them from the public.
The same archbishop who wrote the letter helped orchestrate a meeting between the pope and Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò said in the letter that he alerted Francis of allegations against a cardinal after he was elected pope in 2013. Viganò informed him that the pope's predecessor, Benedict, had imposed sanctions on Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
McCarrick was accused of sexual misconduct with seminarians and even reached financial settlements for his abuses in 2005 and 2007.
Viganò said Pope Benedict XVI imposed sanctions on McCarrick around 2010, commanding him to withdraw to a lifetime of prayer and penance. According to Viganò, Francis ignored these sanctions and chose to provide "cover" for him and even elevated him to be a “trusted counselor” instead.
Viganò said "corruption had reached the very top of the Church's hierarchy" and called on Francis to resign, NBC News report.
"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," he wrote.
Publication of the letter comes as Pope Francis visits Ireland, where he had plans to meet with victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests.
"None of us can fail to be moved by the stories of young people who suffered abuse, were robbed of their innocence," Francis said Sunday during a speech in Knock, west Ireland.
"This open wound challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice," he added. "I beg the Lord’s forgiveness for these sins and for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many others in God’s family."
Viganò claimed in the letter that he informed his successor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, of McCarrick's gross misconduct. Wuerl has denied any former knowledge of McCarrik's abuse.
“I myself brought up the subject with Cardinal Wuerl on several occasions, and I certainly didn’t need to go into detail because it was immediately clear to me that he was fully aware of it,” Viganò wrote.
Viganò added that Wuel's instances that he knew nothing about the charges against McCarrik “are absolutely laughable . . . He lies shamelessly.”
“Cardinal Wuerl, well aware of the continuous abuses committed by Cardinal McCarrick and the sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict, transgressing the Pope’s order, also allowed him to reside at a seminary in Washington D.C. In doing so, he put other seminarians at risk,” Viganò wrote.
Wuerl issued a press release in the wake of Viganò's letter to again deny knowing about McCarrick's misconduct
“Cardinal Wuerl did not receive documentation or information from the Holy See specific to Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior or any of the prohibitions on his life and ministry suggested by Archbishop Vigano,” the cardinal’s spokesman, Ed McFadden, told the Catholic News Agency.
Viganò said he wrote the letter “to discharge my conscience before God of my responsibilities as bishop of the universal Church. I am an old man and I want to present myself to God with clean conscience.”
“The people of God have the right to know the full truth, also regarding their shepherds,” he said. “They have the right to be guided by good shepherds. In order to be able to trust them and love them, they have to know them openly in transparency and truth as they really are. A priest should be a light on a candlestick always and everywhere and for all.”
It would not be wrong of Catholics to exercise some skepticism in regards to Viganò's allegations. Viganò has been a staunch opponent of Pope Francis and has expressed dismay in the progressive movement of the church. The reactionary bishop even created a crisis for the Vatican after he arranged face time between the pope and Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who had become a darling among social conservatives.
Davis' attorney said that she received a phone call from Viganò insisting on a meeting with the pope.
“We were led to believe that the invitation did come directly from Pope Francis," the attorney said at the time.
The Vatican later accused Viganò of keeping the pope in the dark about the surprise encounter.