Accuser blasts pope silence, ‘slander’ over cover-up claims

In a new missive, Pope Francis' critic, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, subtly paints as the protector of the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, then-apostolic nuncio to the United States, listens to remarks at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual fall meeting, on Nov. 16, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The former Vatican ambassador who accused three popes and their advisers of covering up for a disgraced American ex-cardinal has challenged the Vatican to say what it knows about the scandal and accused Pope Francis of mounting a campaign of “subtle slander” against him.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò penned a new missive a month after his initial 11-page document sent shock waves through the Catholic Church. It was uploaded to a document-sharing site late Thursday (Sept. 27).

Viganò denounced the official Vatican silence about his claims and urged the current head of the Vatican bishops’ office to speak out, saying he has all the documentation needed to prove years of cover-up by the Vatican about alleged sexual misconduct by ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

“How can one avoid concluding that the reason they do not provide the documentation is that they know it confirms my testimony?” Viganò wrote. “The pope’s unwillingness to respond to my charges and his deafness to the appeals by the faithful for accountability are hardly consistent with his calls for transparency and bridge building.”

Viganò threw Francis’ papacy into turmoil last month when he accused Francis of rehabilitating McCarrick from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI. Viganò accused more than two dozen current and former Vatican officials, as well as a host of U.S. bishops and papal advisers, of being part of the cover-up and called for Francis to resign over the scandal.

Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal in July after a U.S. church investigation determined an allegation he fondled a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible.

After news broke of the investigation, several former seminarians and priests came forward to report that they, too, had been abused or harassed by McCarrick as adults.

The scandal has led to a crisis in confidence in both the U.S. and Vatican hierarchy, since McCarrick’s penchant for seminarians was apparently an open secret in some U.S. and Vatican church circles.

The archdiocese of Washington announced Friday that McCarrick, 88, now lives at a Capuchin friary in Victoria, Kan., ending months of mystery about his whereabouts.

In his first denunciation, published Aug. 26, Viganò initially claimed Benedict had imposed sanctions against McCarrick prohibiting him from exercising public ministry, traveling or lecturing on behalf of the church. Viganò has modified his account, however, since the public record is rife with evidence McCarrick lived his ministry free from any real constraints, and it is unclear what type of sanctions were ever imposed.

But the crux of Viganò’s claim was that he told Francis of the sanctions against McCarrick on June 23, 2013, and that the pope effectively rehabilitated McCarrick and made him a trusted adviser.

Francis has refused to directly respond to Viganò’s claims, though the Vatican is expected to release some “clarifications” soon.

Francis has, however, referred to the issue indirectly in his morning homilies, speaking of the silence of Jesus before the “Great Accuser” — seemingly comparing his own silence to that of Christ and Viganò’s accusations to the work of Satan.

Rather than directly responding, Viganò complained, Francis “put in place a subtle slander against me — slander being an offense he has often compared to the gravity of murder. Indeed, he did it repeatedly, in the context of the celebration of the most Holy Sacrament, the Eucharist, where he runs no risk of being challenged by journalists.”

Francis refused to take questions about the Viganò accusations during his in-flight news conference returning from the Baltics on Tuesday.

Even though it was released Thursday, Viganò’s new document was dated Friday, Sept. 29, the feast of St. Michael, Archangel. It wasn’t a coincidence.

St. Michael is considered the protector of the church, the leader of all angels who battled evil and drove it from the church. Viganò has cast himself as the church’s protector who at great personal risk dared to break two decades of “omerta” or silence.

He acknowledged that by doing so he violated the pontifical secret — the rule of confidentiality that governs much of the inner workings of the Catholic Church.

“Certainly, some of the facts that I was to reveal were covered by the pontifical secret that I had promised to observe and that I had faithfully observed from the beginning of my service to the Holy See,” Viganò wrote. “But the purpose of any secret, including the pontifical secret, is to protect the church from her enemies, not to cover up and become complicit in crimes committed by some of her members.”

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