A former Vatican official is calling on Pope Francis to resign, saying the pope knew about allegations that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually abused boys and young men but failed to take action.
Some say, however, there is reason for skepticism about the official’s claims and that they may be rooted in antigay sentiments. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, as Vatican ambassador to the U.S., had arranged the pope’s 2016 meeting with antigay Kentucky official Kim Davis — and then lost his job.
Viganò issued a lengthy statement saying he told Francis about the allegations in 2013, CBS News reports. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., resigned last month from the College of Cardinals due to the accusations, but he denies any wrongdoing.
Viganò wrote that he told Francis, "Holy Father, I don't know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation for Bishops there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict [Francis’s predecessor] ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance."
He contnued, "Pope Francis has repeatedly asked for total transparency in the Church. He must honestly state when he first learned about the crimes committed by McCarrick, who abused his authority with seminarians and priests. In any case, the Pope learned about it from me on June 23, 2013 and continued to cover him."
Francis “dismissed” Viganò’s accusations, according to the National Catholic Reporter. “I will not say a single word on this,” the pope told journalists at a Sunday press conference aboard the papal jet as he returned to Rome from Dublin, where he had addressed the World Meeting of Families. “I think this statement speaks for itself, and you have the sufficient journalistic capacity to draw conclusions.”
“When some time passes and you have your conclusions, maybe I will speak,” he added. “But I would like that your professional maturity carries out this task.” He further told the press, “Read the statement attentively and make your own judgment.”
Slate contributor Isaac Chotiner expressed skepticism about Viganò’s claim, calling it “another shot in the long war between Pope Francis and more conservative elements in the church, including Viganò himself.”
“Viganò, who has cast blame on gay people for the sex abuse crisis, has previously battled with Francis: He lost his job in 2016 amidst anger over his handling of the pope’s trip to the United States, which included — thanks to Viganò — a meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” Chotiner wrote. Davis and her lawyers characterized the meeting as a private audience with Francis, something the Vatican disputed.
“Viganò is just using the Western church, and American Catholicism, and the shock caused by the revelations against Cardinal McCarrick, to make his own personal case against the Vatican, which expelled him and didn’t make him a cardinal,” Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, told Slate.
“I think Viganò represents the part of the right wing of the church that sees the LGBT issue as the defining issue of this millennium, or this century, and this pontificate,” Faggioli added. “They think that anything can and should be done to stop Pope Francis from ushering in a more welcoming church for LGBT people. So in this there is a convergence between Viganò, who has always been obsessed with the gay lobby and gay conspiracy, and the American Catholic right.”
Francis has sometimes softened the church’s rhetoric toward LGBTQ people, and he has met with gay and transgender people, but the church remains opposed to same-sex relationships and gender transition — and no one would realistically expect Francis to change these policies.
The pope discussed gay issues with reporters in his press conference at close of the World Meeting of Families, a Vatican-sponsored conference on matters affecting families. Asked what parents should do when a child comes out to them, he urged prayer and understanding, but in some cases, psychiatric treatment.
“Don’t condemn,” he said, according to NBC News. “Dialogue. Understand, give the child space so he or she can express themselves.” Parents should assure their children of their love and definitely not cast them out of the family, he added.
He did suggest psychiatric help for young children who come out, which may well be a reference to “ex-gay” therapy, although this isn't completely clear. "When it shows itself from childhood, there is a lot that can be done through psychiatry, to see how things are,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse. “It is something else if it shows itself after 20 years.”