The Vatican has issued a first or interim response, approved by Pope Francis, to the accusations that have been leveled against the pope and senior Vatican officials by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. The accusations involved how three pontificates dealt with the allegations of abuse against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and how he could nevertheless rise in the ranks of the hierarchy.
It revealed that “from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances” that have already been made, a final report may conclude that “choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues.” These words would seem to indicate that the Vatican recognizes that mistakes were made in the way Archbishop McCarrick’s case was handled by the Holy See.
A final report may conclude that “choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues.”
It is noteworthy, however, that the statement never mentions the name of the former nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Viganò, whose testimony has caused such division and scandal in the church and the wider world. Nor does it mention the word "sanctions" that Archbishop Viganò alleges Pope Benedict XVI imposed and Francis lifted.
The Vatican statement, issued around 3 p.m. Rome time, said that “after the publication of the accusations regarding the conduct of Archbishop Theodore Edgar McCarrick” Pope Francis, “aware of and concerned by the confusion that these accusations are causing in the conscience of the faithful, has established that the following be communicated.”
In other words, Pope Francis is concerned that Catholics in the United States are given truthful answers to the disturbing questions that have been raised by the McCarrick case. He offers this by way of a first response, clearly indicating that there will be a much fuller response in due course.
The statement said that “in September 2017, the Archdiocese of New York notified the Holy See that a man had accused former Cardinal McCarrick of having abused him in the 1970s.” It revealed that Pope Francis then “ordered a thorough preliminary investigation into this, which was carried out by the Archdiocese of New York, at the conclusion of which the relative documentation was forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” Francis intervened because only a pope can intervene in the case of a cardinal.
“In the meantime,” it said, “because grave indications emerged during the course of the investigation,” Pope Francis “accepted the resignation of Archbishop McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, prohibiting him by order from exercising public ministry and obliging him to lead a life of prayer and penance.” The statement does not reveal whether Francis asked for his resignation.
Pope Francis is concerned that Catholics in the United States are given truthful answers to the disturbing questions that have been raised by the McCarrick case.
Then referring to “other accusations brought against Archbishop McCarrick,” presumably meaning the various allegations made by Archbishop Viganò, the Vatican said that Pope Francis “has decided that information gathered during the preliminary investigation be combined with a further thorough study of the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick, in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively. “
It does not say that all the documentation will be made public, but it is expected that the conclusions of this evaluation will be made public.
It offered assurance to American Catholics that as Pope Francis said in Philadelphia on Sept. 27, 2015, “We will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead.” It stated categorically that “both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.”
Francis has spoken many times against “clericalism” and made clear his determination to root it out: he sees it as among the root causes of the abuses of power, conscience and sex by clergy. It is clear that clericalism was a key element in the McCarrick case.
The statement concluded by saying “Pope Francis renews his pressing invitation to unite forces to fight against the grave scourge of abuse within and beyond the Church, and to prevent such crimes from being committed in the future to the harm of the most innocent and most vulnerable in society. “
It recalled that as part of the effort to eradicate and prevent further crimes of abuse in the church, Pope Francis “has convened a meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences from around the world for next February.”
It recalled too what the pope said in his Aug. 20 letter to the People of God: “The only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within.”