In an unprecedented 11-page testament, the Vatican's former ambassador to the United States claimed that Pope Francis knew about sex abuse allegations against disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for years but chose to cover for him and elevate his position within the church before accepting his resignation last month.
The document, published by the National Catholic Register, is attributed to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano — who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington from 2011 to 2016 and is known for being at ideological odds with Pope Francis. In the letter he claims that senior Vatican officials knew in as early as 2000 that McCarrick regularly invited young seminarians into his bed, but that they still promoted him to cardinal.
The Vatican press office declined to give an immediate response to Vigano's letter. The pontiff also refused to comment, responding that he "would not say a single word" when asked about the accusations by reporters on his flight back to Rome after this weekend's papal visit to Ireland.
"I will say sincerely that I must say this, to you," he said to journalists, "and all of you who are interested: Read the document carefully and judge it for yourselves.
"You have sufficient journalistic capacity to draw conclusions," he said.
"When a little time has passed and you have the conclusions, perhaps I will talk," he added.
Here are the key points Vigano alleged in the letter:
The archbishop personally 'told the pope' about claims
Archbishop Vigano, 77, alleged that he told Pope Francis that Cardinal McCarrick faced extensive accusations of sexually abusing lower-ranking seminarians and priests in 2013.
“He knew from at least June 23, 2013, that McCarrick was a serial predator,” the retired Italian wrote, adding that although the pope "knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end".
Pope Francis 'removed sanctions' on Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop Vigano claimed that then-Pope Benedict imposed unannounced sanctions on Cardinal McCarrick.
"The cardinal was to leave the seminary where he was living,” the archbishop wrote, saying: “He was also forbidden to celebrate (Mass) in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance.”
He said the sanctions were put in place in 2009 or 2010 but did not recall an exact date.
Archbishop Vigano alleged that Pope Francis did “not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on him” and also made McCarrick “his trusted counsellor".
Memos exposing McCarrick ignored?
Archbishop Vigano said the measures were purportedly put in place "years" after his predecessors Archbishops Gabriel Montalvo and Pietro Sambi "immediately" informed the Holy See in 2000 when they learned of Archbishop McCarrick’s “gravely immoral behaviour with seminarians and priests”.
According to Vigano, a memo from Archbishop Montalvo was ignored as well as a memo he penned to the Secretariat of State, then Archbishop Fernando Filoni, in 2008 where he repeated "to my superiors that I thought it was necessary to intervene as soon as possible by removing the cardinal’s hat from Cardinal McCarrick”.
The archbishop wants Pope Francis to resign
"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," Vigano wrote.
Below is the full text of the letter. Euronews has not been able to corroborate the allegations.