The Council of Cardinal Advisors issued a statement on Sept. 10 expressing their “full solidarity with Pope Francis in the face of what has happened in these last weeks”—namely the attack against him by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former nuncio to the United States. They added that they were aware that the Holy See is preparing “the eventual and necessary clarifications” in response to the grave allegations Archbishop Viganò made in August.
Archbishop Viganò had accused the pope of covering up the abuses committed by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and of lifting the sanctions he believes Pope Benedict XVI imposed on the former Washington cardinal. He also accused many Vatican officials during the previous two pontificates of the same cover-up. The archbishop stunned the Catholic world by calling for Francis’ resignation.
The cardinal council members said in their statement that they were aware that “in the present discussion” the Holy See “is formulating the eventual and necessary clarifications” to these events. In this way, they confirmed the news that had circulated in the Italian media in recent days that the Vatican is preparing a response to what Archbishop Viganò stated in his letter, the contents of which has become a source of scandal and division in the church, particularly in the United States, and a direct attack on the pope and his moral authority.
The cardinal council members said that they were aware that the Holy See “is formulating the eventual and necessary clarifications” to the Viganò documents among other recent events.
In another part of the statement, the cardinals expressed “satisfaction” for “the good outcome” of the World Meeting of Families that was held in Dublin at the end of August. It had been organized by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.
They also revealed that at their meeting, which began on Sept. 10 and concludes on Sept. 13, they presented Pope Francis with “the proposal for the reform of the Roman Curia” that has been under development over the past five years.
Pope Francis established the Council of Cardinal Advisors, informally known as C9, soon after his election. He tasked it with advising him on the governance of the universal church and the reform of the Roman Curia.
The council has devoted much of its time over the past five years to drafting a reform project for the Roman Curia. That work is almost finished, but there are many other things to be addressed, particularly in relation to the universal church.
The September session of the council was the first since news broke in late June about an investigation finding credible sexual abuse allegations against then-Cardinal McCarrick, since the release in mid-August of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on how six dioceses handled abuse allegations and since the publication in late August of a document by Archbishop Viganò, former nuncio to the United States, alleging that Pope Francis knew of Cardinal McCarrick’s sexual misconduct yet allowed him to continue in active ministry.
The nine cardinal advisors appointed by the pope come from Europe, Asia, Latin America, the United States, Africa, Asia and Oceania, but there were only six present at today's meeting: Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Seán P. O’Malley of Boston; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.
The three absentees were: 85-year-old Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile, who is facing judicial questioning over his handling of abuse allegations; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo, who turns 79 in early October and is in a country marked by political crisis and armed conflict; and the 77-year-old Australian Cardinal George Pell, who currently is facing two trials by jury in Australia on sex abuse charges.
In their statement today, the six cardinals asked Pope Francis to provide “a reflection on the work, the structure and the composition” of the Council of Cardinal Advisors, “taking into account the advanced age of some of the members.”
This last remark appears to confirm what has been rumored in Rome for some time, namely that Pope Francis intends to change the membership of the council and replace some of its members—including Cardinal Errázuriz Ossa, Cardinal Pell and Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya. Pope Francis is expected to make the changes before the end of this year.