In the wake of the Figueiredo report’s information on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct, accusations that higher-ups in the Vatican have known about the allegations for years are raising concerns about accountability within the clergy.
Pope Francis said he knew nothing about McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct, and that before an investigation revealed the accusations, he “knew nothing [and had] no idea” about them.
“About McCarrick I knew nothing. Obviously, nothing, nothing,” he said in an interview Tuesday, according to The New York Times.
His statements raised concerns as the letters released by Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, former secretary to McCarrick, suggest Vatican officials might have been aware of claims concerning McCarrick’s alleged misconduct, as well as his punishment and subsequent continued public profile.
The letters and emails in Figuerido’s report suggest Vatican officials placed restrictions on McCarrick as early as 2008, but failed to enforce these restrictions and allowed him to continue his high-profile work.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared McCarrick guilty in February of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power,” according to a Vatican statement.
He was also defrocked.
The letters and emails provided by Figueiredo revealed correspondence between McCarrick and Pope Francis as well as other senior Vatican officials. (RELATED: Pope Francis Issues Church Law Governing Sex Abuse Reporting And Investigation)
The pope previously refused to comment on the issue in an interview when asked about whether Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Holy See’s former ambassador to Washington, had informed him of the alleged abuse, and whether his predecessor had sanctioned McCarrick.
“I will not say a single word about this,” Francis said in August 2018. “I believe the statement speaks for itself. And you have the sufficient journalistic ability to make your conclusions. It’s an act of trust.”
Vigano said Pope Francis was outright lying.
He said he personally informed the pope about the punishments intended for McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct.
“What the pope said about not knowing anything is a lie. […] He pretends not to remember what I told him about McCarrick, and he pretends that it wasn’t him who asked me about McCarrick in the first place,” Vigano said in an interview with LifeSite News after the pope’s May interview.
When asked about this point, Francis said he could not remember.
“I don’t remember if he told me about this,” the pope said, according to The NYT. “If it’s true or not. No idea. But you know that about McCarrick, I knew nothing. If not, I wouldn’t have remained quiet, right?”
Figueiredo’s report also brought up some of the accusations made by Vigano, as the letters show Vigano’s assertion Pope Benedict XVI imposed restrictions on McCarrick, The NYT reported.
The letters also suggest former Cardinal Donald Wuerl was made aware of the restrictions, though Wuerl has several times denied the accusation. Wuerl resigned from his position in October 2018.
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