In Mexican TV interview, Pope Francis denies knowing of McCarrick restrictions

 Then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick attends a reception for new cardinals in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 20, 2010. Among the new cardinals was Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, successor to Cardinal McCarrick as archbishop of Washington. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) Then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick attends a reception for new cardinals in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 20, 2010. Among the new cardinals was Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, successor to Cardinal McCarrick as archbishop of Washington. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

Pope Francis has again denied that he knew anything about the sexual misconduct against seminarians perpetrated by former-cardinal Theodore McCarrick as alleged by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. The former nuncio to the United States claimed that he told Pope Francis about allegations against Mr. McCarrick in a private audience in June 2013.

But Pope Francis said he “does not remember” Archbishop Viganò ever telling him this. The pope also explained in a recent interview with Mexican television why he has kept silent for eight months on the letter written by Archbishop Viganò and said he received “with humor” the accusation of heresy recently made against him.

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Pope Francis spoke about Mexico, China, the February summit on sex abuse at the Vatican on the protection of children, migrants and the building of walls, the need to get rid of the papal court and much more in a wide-ranging one hour and 40 minute interview with Mexico’s Televisa’s reporter, Valentina Alazaraki, the text of which the Vatican has just released in Spanish. In the interview, Ms. Alzaraki asked the pope why he has remained silent for eight months regarding the accusations raised by Archbishop Viganò. She recalled that instead of speaking, he instead had asked journalists to scrutinize what Archbishop Viganò had said and draw their own conclusions and then he would speak.

Referring to his silence, Francis responded saying, “Those who made the Roman law said that silence was a way of speaking.” He revealed that before he spoke to reporters on the plane, “I had not read all the letter; I saw some of it and already knew what it is,” and so he decided to invite the journalists to study it and draw their own conclusions. He said he refrained from saying then what a judge in Milan later said regarding Archbishop Viganò’s contestation by his family over money, when he convicted him.

Pope Francis: “I knew nothing about McCarrick.... If not, I would not have remained silent.”

A second reason for the silence, Pope Francis said, was “the silences of Jesus” when he refused to answer in “the climate of fury” created by his attackers. Francis said, “This letter was [written] in fury as you [reporters] noted from the results,” and he recalled that one or more journalists had written that [Archbishop Viganò] was paid for his letter, but Francis added: “I don’t know this, I don’t have evidence.”

Asked whether he knew about the abuse by former cardinal McCarrick, Pope Francis replied: “I knew nothing about McCarrick, obviously, nothing, nothing. I said this several times; I knew nothing, [I had] no idea. And when [Archbishop Viganò] said that he spoke to me about this on that day when he came…I do not remember if he spoke to me about that. Is it true or not? I have no idea! But [you reporters] know that about McCarrick. I knew nothing. If not, I would not have remained silent.”

Francis went onto summarize the reasons for his silence: “First, the evidence was there, judge for yourselves. It was an act of trust in you. Secondly, because of Jesus, who in moments of fury he could not speak because it would have made it worse. Everyone would have gone against the one. The Lord teaches us this path and I follow it.”

The pope’s dialogue with Mexican television came to light as new reporting from Crux raised new questions about what church officials knew about measures taken to sideline then Cardinal McCarrick under Pope Benedict. Msgr. Anthony J. Figueiredo, who was the former cardinal's secretary for nine months in 1994 and 1995, but continued to assist him from Rome after that, released extracts from his correspondence with McCarrick on May 28. The monsignor said he had evidence that recently retired Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington knew about the restrictions, as did Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, then-prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then-Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who was nuncio to the United States at the time.

In his Mexico television interview the pope was asked how he reacted to the accusation of heresy made against him in a letter to the world’s bishops on April 30 by a small group of clergy and Catholic academics, Pope Francis said, “with a sense of humor.”

“I pray for them because they are wrong,” he said. “I saw [them as] poor people [who are] manipulated by some. I saw who signed it…. Seriously, I looked at it with a sense of humor and, I would say, tenderness, paternal tenderness. That is to say, it did not hurt me at all. What hurts me is the hypocrisy, the lie. That hurts me. But a mistake like that, in which there are people whose heads have been filled…. No please. We have to care for them also, we have to take care for them.”

Pope Francis said that in some abuse investigations, not even his closest collaborators had all the relevant information. But now, “with the help of God” and from personal encounters with victims of abuse, things are working better.

In the interview, Pope Francis admitted that the information he receives, like his predecessors, often comes through the “filters” of cardinals, bishops and Vatican officials, and he is not always as fully briefed as he should be, as happened with the Chile situation and the case of Bishop Juan Barros. He attributed much of this to “the Curial style” of operating rather than to “corruption” and said, “clearly this is something that has to be corrected and I am making efforts to correct it.”

He noted that in some situations, referring to cases of abuse in Chile, Peru and the United States, not even his closest collaborators in the Vatican had all the relevant information. But now, “with the help of God” and from personal encounters with victims of abuse, things are working better, and he prays to God constantly “not to make mistakes in this nomination or that one.”

Asked how he chose his council of nine cardinal advisors given the accusations that have emerged against several of them regarding sexual abuse or its cover-up, as is the case with Cardinals George Pell of Australia and Francisco Javier Erazzuritz of Chile, the pope said he had chosen “one from each continent” as well as “a coordinator” (Cardinal Óscar Maradiaga from Honduras) and one from the Governatorate of the Vatican City State. He said he “was asked” to bring Cardinal Pell from Australia to work in the Curia. He noted that three of the council members are now retired: Cardinals Pell, Errazuritz and Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He acknowledged that there have been all kinds of allegations against Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, but he said Cardinal Maradiaga “is honest” and “nothing has been proven.” He denounced these allegations as “calumnies.”

He was also asked about the case of the Argentinean bishop, the Most Rev. Gustavo Zanchetta, who is now accused of abuse. Pope Francis had removed Bishop Zanchetta from his diocese and created a post for him in the Vatican—before, the pope has said, he knew of the accusation of the abuse against him. The pope explained how he had brought Bishop Zanchetta to Rome and confronted him with his accuser and said Bishop Zanchetta defended himself well.

Pope Francis said he then sent Bishop Zanchetta to Spain for psychiatric tests and later ordered a formal investigation in Argentina, carried out by a bishop in that country. Once he received the report of that investigation, he decided that Bishop Zanchetta should be sent for trial by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That trial is underway.

Asked why he refused to accept the resignation of the French cardinal, Philippe Barbarian, whom a court in Lyon found guilty of cover-up of abuse, Pope Francis confirmed that he had done so on the principle of “the presumption of innocence” until the judicial process—including the appeal—had concluded.

The cardinal has appealed the conviction in the first instance. Francis emphasized that “it is necessary to explain to the people” the reason for his decision. But he noted too that when the situation was very clear he acted decisively, as in the case of Mr. McCarrick, whom he removed from the clerical state and the college of cardinals.

The pope also addressed the reality of femicide and other forms of violence against women, which is a problem not only in Mexico but across the globe. Pope Francis said he could not offer “a sociological explanation,” instead he highlighted the fact that “women are still in second place” and this often means they can be “the object of slavery.” He cited the example of women being prostitutes in Rome and what he has seen when he visited a rescue shelter recently.

He then went on to praise the indispensable role of women in society. “The world without women doesn’t function. Not just because she bears children, let us leave aside procreation…. A home without a woman does not function.” He described “tenderness” as “the patrimony of woman. But from there to femicide to slavery, there is some step…. What is this hate? I don’t know how to explain it.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Jeffrey More
3 weeks ago

Once again we are confronted with concrete evidence of the unsuitability of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to be Pope. Only the sycophancy of people like the author of this article serves to create even the illusion that this sow’s ear can be regarded as a silk purse.
The title of this article promises much, but the text of the article not only fails to deliver, but positively contradicts the assertion made in the title. Bergoglio does NOT deny that he knew of the McCarrick restrictions. Rather, he claims that he DOES NOT REMEMBER hearing of the restrictions. Denying something, on the one hand, and denying that one remembers anything about that something, on the other hand, are entirely different things. Add to this his statement that he knew nothing about the activities of McCarrick, followed immediately by his assertion that as to whether Viganò told him of McCarrick’s activities, he had no idea as to the truth of the assertion, and what one has is the portrait of a master dissembler, if not a stone cold liar.

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
3 weeks ago

Very well said, Mr. Moore! Please keep speaking up. If enough of us keep hammering away maybe we can get the Pope out and into a secluded monastery without the ability to publish or open his mouth.

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
3 weeks ago

Very well said, Mr. Moore! Please keep speaking up. If enough of us keep hammering away maybe we can get the Pope out and into a secluded monastery without the ability to publish or open his mouth.

Lisa M
3 weeks ago

Jeffrey/Thomas- Wow- I hope neither one of you ever sits on a jury. You are so confident you can read minds. If someone has told me they told me something, and I don't remember, what should I do, call them a liar, or acknowledge I may in fact just not remember? Happens to the best of us. It is unfortunate your clear dislike for the Vicar of Christ clouds your basic judgement. It shocks me how those so certain they are the 'faithful' Catholics have no trouble attacking the one person Christ promised would protect us from error....oh that's right, some people just know better.

Jeffrey More
3 weeks ago

I practiced law for 37 years - litigation - and I had a great deal of experience assessing the credibility of witnesses and their statements. It’s not mind-reading - it’s common-sense. Bergoglio is, in my opinion, dissembling.

Lisa M
3 weeks ago

And if you are wrong Jeffrey? As a lawyer I'm sure you have experienced, like the rest of us, a reminder from time to time that either you misjudged or were taken, or is that just an impossibility? . Are you suggesting you are not bias, considering you refer to our Holy Father as Bergoglio?

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
2 weeks 6 days ago

And what if Mr. Moore is right? Look-up Punderson, Geissler, Maradiaga, Barros, the Scottish cardinal the pope protected, and so many more. Then, tell Mr. Moore and me that the Pope is honest. We all hope the Pope is a righteous man. However, he has not shown himself to be that kind of Pope. Rather, he is in league with some Popes the Church would rather not think about.

Lisa M
2 weeks 6 days ago

Thomas- If I am wrong, quite simply I would tell God that you promised to protect the Church through the Vicar of Christ, and I followed him, as you said regarding faith and morals, that's what I would honestly say Thomas. As far as judging the Pope by who he has trusted, etc, I am not to judge, as I was friends with a 'wonderful' conservative priest whom I trusted and defended, only to learn he had molested a family member, and was recently convicted. We don't get it right always, especially when our mind is not twisted. It takes time, as it did for Pope Francis in Chile, to recognize when you have been had. I believe you do not trust Pope Francis, but you might want to review some of your sources ands how open they in fact are. Lifesite News, as an example, permanently deletes anyone who questions their opinion. Does that sound reasonable to you? Do their readers need protection? Have you asked yourself why some of us love Pope Francis? We share your views on marriage and abortion, etc, yet we love this Pope.....why? Unfortunately the American Catholic Church has been poisoned by politics, and Catholics have taken sides, left or right, rather than Catholic, which is neither. You might want to read the blog WherePeterIs for a different perspective. Peace :)

Eugene Fitzpatrick
3 weeks ago

I see Francis as the antithesis of the dissembler; as one who fortuitously happened to come by at a time when society is vastly in need of encountering his wisdom, articulation and calm. This is a decent, just and humane person navigating his way through a difficult life situation and doing it with panache and ‘sine perturbatione’.

arthur mccaffrey
3 weeks ago

forgetful? misinformed? prevaricating? lying? bending the truth?
sounds like Francis is conveniently ignorant of something that a lot of other people know about. That kind of ignorance is not a good trait in a CEO. Makes you wonder how many filters exist between Francis and "the facts". Surprising that somebody who is so well informed about global warming is so ignorant of what goes on in his own house.

Dale Athlon
2 weeks 4 days ago

Agreed. When the stock price crashes, it's the CEO who gets fired. When the baseball team has a .400 winning percentage, it's the manager who gets fired.

When your organization is filled with predatory homosexuals (costing in the Billions of dollars) and nothing changes, it's a sign that CHANGE is needed.

Francis should resign. Hope and change is needed now.

Andrew Strada
2 weeks 6 days ago

Pope Francis “I knew nothing about McCarrick, obviously, nothing, nothing. I said this several times; I knew nothing, [I had] no idea. Sergeant Schultz on Hogan's Heroes: "I know NOTHING."

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
2 weeks 6 days ago

I had not thought of Sgt. Schultz. He, like many people inside and outside the Church, don't want to leave the comfort zone of always believing the Pope is right about everything. Maybe, just maybe, the Holy Spirit is presenting us with a challenge to wake-up and fulfill our responsibilities as the Church, which is, in fact, the People of God; not simply the Pope and the rest of the hierarchy (bishops, priests, and deacons). We are responsible to hold the leadership accountable, in the Church and in every institution to which we claim membership. We can't hide in our comfort zone.

Lisa M
2 weeks 5 days ago

not right about everything Thomas, right about faith and morals, as promised by Christ!!

Jim Spangler
2 weeks 6 days ago

Not only is Francis a liar, but he is a heretic! Burn him at the stake!!! Viva Vigano!

Lisa M
2 weeks 6 days ago

Wow- That's mighty Catholic of you Jim. You know when Pope Francis strikes a nerve , it's well worth listening to his message. God Bless Pope Francis. It's a shame that anyone who claims to be Catholic can speak like this and not see that perhaps it is them with the problem.

Jim Spangler
2 weeks 6 days ago

Blind believer! God Bless!

Lisa M
2 weeks 5 days ago

Jim- You seem so certain of your position, where your understanding of faith and morality is above that of the Pope, even though it is the Pope, and the bishops in communion with him, that we are promised protection from error regarding faith and morals. No promise was given to us, nor any of the bishops going out on their own. I'm just curious, where in scripture, the catechism or in tradition do you base your position on? Is that not the whole purpose of having a Vicar of Christ, so we are protected from error, if we follow him? Yet, you choose to follow your understanding? I do not follow blindly. On the contrary, I just base my starting point with the Church, with the Vicar of Christ and the Magisterium, and go from there. That helps keep me on tract, for I recognize no matter how knowledgeable or intelligent I am, or may think I am, God provided us a gift that ensured assistance on our way to understanding him. Why would I chose to abandon that gift and go on my own? That would make me a protestant, not a Catholic. But don't worry Jim, I would never suggest they burn you at the stake.

John Rysavy
2 weeks 5 days ago

Parting words is so worrisome. Take McCarrick on sleeping with all those seminarians....”there were no sexual relations”....was there homosexual relations? Priests are to be celibate....end of story.

Jim Spangler
2 weeks 4 days ago

Francis is not worth the wood to start a fire to burn him at the stake. You look at your faith blindly and are a follower. The Church today is not the Church that Jesus left for us. The deposit of faith is still there, but it is the male human administering that has gone astray. We cannot trust the Pope, the Hierarchy. Until the Church weeds out the heretics, the abusers, the homosexuals, there is no morality!

Arnoldo Miranda
2 weeks 5 days ago

This is unsustainable in the long run. It's clear the obfuscation through ignorance, omission, strategy, or who knows what is going on. It will take a very brave person to clean up this mess since they will have to admit what they knew, when they knew it, and how they're going to fix it so the pontiff after this brave soul doesn't have to deal with it going forward.

Dale Athlon
2 weeks 4 days ago

I can say with happiness that I believed and supported Vigano from the beginning. It's nice to know that one is on the right side and path with God, because many times we all wonder.

Lisa M
2 weeks 4 days ago

The only way to know that is by following the Vicar of Christ, for that is who the Lord promised would protect the faith and morals of the Church, not Archbishop Vigano.

Jim Spangler
2 weeks 4 days ago

I find this hilarious! We have a crooked politician that is Pope, who grew up under Peron-ism in Argentina who was a lying dictator, and we are supposed to follow him and not question or criticize because he is the vicar of Christ? We are in a terrible state of affairs!

Lisa M
2 weeks 4 days ago

Jim- That's fine if you see things that way. The only thing I'm pointing out is you can't on one hand attack the Vicar of Christ, and on the other imply you are Catholic. The two don't go together. As far as following the pope, if you mean regarding faith and morals, yes, that's the whole point of having a pope. Pre Vatican II made that very clear as well. You might want to check out Canon Law 749 and in particular 752 and following.

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
2 weeks 3 days ago

If you go to www.latimes.com and enter in the search engine Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta and an article, maybe more than one, will pop-up from the 05-29-2019, section A, page 3 issue. Bishop Zanchetta is one of the bishops Pope Francis protected, got out of Argentina when things got too hot due to the allegations of his sexual activities with seminarians (another McCarrick episode?), and appointed him to a senior Vatican administration post. And, yes, just like McCarrick, the Vatican was aware of Bishop Zanchetta's alleged activities. Now the bishop is on trial in the Vatican. This isn't naivete, stupidity, or blind loyalty. It is, however, an old-boys club mentality that allows the Pope to pick and choose whom he will hold responsible for their actions and inactions. He is harming the Church. The Pope must resign or be forced out.

Lisa M
2 weeks 2 days ago

Hmmmm- Who should I listen to, Christ, who through the Holy Spirit chose the Vicar of Christ, or people who don't like the message the Pope is sending, so they google search for opinion pieces that attack him, like they have some special gift to read minds. I think I'll stick with the one Christ promised would protect the Church. I'll take the Pope's word over those who read minds and think they could never possibly be deceived.

Jim Spangler
2 weeks 2 days ago

You continue to be hung up on the Pope being some kind of special appointee direct from God. He is a human who is full of errors and is straying from the deposit of faith. Your faith blinds you to the fact that he is another human being who is able to make error, which he is doing by straying from the deposit of faith that Jesus established for the Roman Catholic Church! He has moved into the category of being a HERETIC, and needs to correct and or justify his errors. I think he is moving into a dementia mode and will need to be removed. God save the faith!

Lisa M
2 weeks 2 days ago

Jim- I'm well aware the Pope is human, and can error, sin ,etc. The difference between him and the rest of us however, is he cannot error when it comes to the teachings of faith and morals. That is a foundation of our faith. You say he is straying from the deposit of the faith. Really? How's that? Because you say so? Could it be that you are so certain how things should be that you ignore what Christ himself wants understood? Could it be you in fact are in error in your thinking? You do not understand the teachings? If the Catholic Church were merely a rules only institution, there would be no need for popes and bishops, we would just have to read a book of rules, and all would be good until the end of time. That is not the case. Our Church is a living Church, and Christ promised to protect the Church from error. He did not promise to protect Catholics from error. He gave us a Church to follow, and if we follow the teachings as given by the magisterium, we stay on track. If we decide we know better, we deviate from the truth. Did Christ make a mistake? Did he lie? Nothing Pope Francis has said is contrary to JPII or BenedictXV!. Read their writings on migrants, the poor and the disenfranchised. Pope Francis is focussing on these issues more because love and concern for our neighbours is needed now more than ever. He is as clear as day concerning moral teachings, but it appears that some so called 'faithful' Catholics want him to only focus on a few things, almost as if they can say "hey look at me, I'm pro life, I have 5 children, I'm the real faithful Catholic" Oh, by the way, look at me again." They want him to focus on the sins, where Pope Francis wants to focus on bringing us sinners closer to God.

If one were objective, one would recognize that the pro life movement as a whole needs revamping. Forty years into this tragedy abortion continues, and now euthanasia. Maybe, just maybe our focus is wrong for these times and a new more loving approach to mothers in crisis is a better way to go about it. Maybe how we treat migrants is an example of our hypocrisy concerning the unborn?

Jim, I am merely following what Christ promised. That does not mean I have never questioned anything, on the contrary. The difference is however, I accept the teaching as truth, and most of the time I understand and get it. Sometimes I don't. When I don't, I say, this is the truth, hmm, I need to figure this one out, and I go from there. If I am wrong, I will tell our Lord that I listened to the teachings of the Church. What will you say? That you knew better? That simply doesn't make any sense to me, and ultimately I think it boils down to pride and a lack of humility from those who will not concede they are not following Church teachings. The irony of course, is these very same people are so aware of the 'liberal' Catholics who ignore Church teachings. Do you really think the anti Francis, 'faithful' "orthodox" Catholics are any different? They are not orthodox because they are not following Church teaching. They are defying papal authority, much like their so called liberal Catholics. Both are ignoring Church teachings. Both appear to prefer the 'doctrine' of their chosen political party to the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Both need more humility.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.]

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