Former top Vatican official calls on Pope to resign amid abuse crisis

Monsignor John Kennedy with Pope Francis

Monsignor John Kennedy with Pope Francis Fr Colin Rothery Dublin-born Cardinal Kevin Farrell Bishop Paul Tighe

A senior Vatican official called on Pope Francis to resign, accusing the pontiff of failing to act sooner on sexual abuse allegations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Apostolic Nuncio of the United States, reads the Apostolic Mandate during the Installation Mass of Archbishop Blase Cupich at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago November 18, 2014.

Francis was speaking to reporters aboard the papal plane as he made the journey from Dublin back to the Vatican.

Asked in a follow-up question when he first learned about the abuse allegations against Archbishop McCarrick, Pope Francis responded, "This is part of the statement".

Pope Francis allegedly removed those unconfirmed sanctions and made McCarrick "his trusted counselor" despite knowing him to be a "serial predator".

The Catholic church is at the center of a reinvigorated wave of scrutiny regarding its treatment of sexual abuse by clergy members following McCarrick's resignation and a Pennsylvania grand jury report that documented decades of sexual abuse by Catholic leaders in the state.

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It came at the end of two days in Ireland for Francis, a trip that was nearly overshadowed by anti-gay Vigano, voicing that he thinks the reformist pope should resign, just a month after McCarrick did himself.

"I will say sincerely that I must say this, to you", he said, when asked by a journalist about the letter, "and all of you who are interested: Read the document carefully and judge it for yourselves".

"I won't say a word about it", the pope said. "I think the statement speaks for itself and you have sufficient journalistic capacity to reach your own conclusions".

The pope went to Ireland to close the 2018 World Meeting of Families - a global Catholic gathering that addressed issues including the treatment of gay people in the Church.

In his testimony, Archbishop Viganò claimed that in the late 2000s, Benedict XVI had "imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis" and that Archbishop Viganò personally told Pope Francis about those sanctions in 2013.

"I was greatly dismayed at my superiors for the inconceivable absence of any measure against the cardinal, and for the continuing lack of any communication with me since my first memo in December 2006", he said.

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Vigano's claim that McCarrick had been ordered by Benedict to stay out of public ministry and retire to a lifetime of prayer is somewhat disputed, given that McCarrick enjoyed a fairly public retirement. He said he spoke directly to Cardinal Wuerl on several occasions and that Cardinal Wuerl "failed to acknowledge receipt of my two letters, contrary to what he customarily did".

He claimed that McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, advised the pope to appoint a number of bishops in the United States, including Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, and Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego.

Though he said that he was innocent, an investigation by the Church found the allegations to be credible and substantiated, the archdiocese said in a statement, he was forced to resign last month. However, he did not make any criticism of St. John Paul II, who appointed Archbishop McCarrick to lead the Archdiocese of Washington and made him a cardinal in 2001.

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 Vigano sites.

In Ireland on Sunday the pope "begged for God's forgiveness" for past clerical abuse scandals, which have badly damaged the image of the Church in the Catholic stronghold. On Saturday, he said the corruption and cover-up of abuse amounted to human excrement, according to victims.

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