By Catherine Brewer ’20
In the unfolding investigation of the most recent scandal in the Catholic Church, a letter suggests that knowledge of the corruption had been intentionally hidden by a small number of church officials, including the pope. The 11-page document, written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, was published on Sunday, August 26 and claims that Pope Francis had worked with other Vatican officials for almost 20 years to cover up the sexual misconduct allegations against Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington. Meanwhile, Pope Francis visited Ireland, where the Church has struggled to maintain authority in the midst of the allegations.
Viganò claims in the letter that in 2013, he informed Francis that the preceding pope, Benedict XVI, had ordered for McCarrick “to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.” Rather than taking a more severe action against McCarrick to respond to the allegations, Viganò explains that Francis let McCarrick select bishops in the United States.
Since McCarrick was forced to resign in July due to sexual abuse allegations regarding a teenage altar boy, Viganò believes that the pope must do the same. Until his removal by Francis in 2016, Viganò was the Vatican envoy to the U.S.
Viganò also cites a letter by Rev. James Boniface Ramsey, a Reverend in New York, that was sent to the Vatican during the time of John Paul II. Ramsey’s letter was aimed at informing church officials of allegations against McCarrick at Seton Hall University’s Immaculate Conception Seminary in New Jersey, which claimed that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with seminarians.
The letter also attempts to point out a cause for the sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church, as Viganò argues that they are the result of gay priests and that their struggles with being homosexual in the Church have been the root cause of corruption. He mentions a number of church leaders by name in order to accuse them of covering up abuse and misconduct, as well as assert that they are gay.
Francis embarked on a visit to Ireland in hopes of gaining papal authority in the midst of sexual abuse scandals, as the rising number of cases has led many Irish people to turn away from the Church. When interviewed about Viganò’s letter on the plane ride back to Rome, Francis avoided answering questions. “I will not say a single word on this,” Francis stated. “I believe the statement speaks for itself. And you have the sufficient journalistic ability to make your conclusions. It’s an act of trust.”
While Viganò said that he would go into hiding for his safety after his letter was published, he continued to be in contact with media outlets. On the evening of Friday, August 31, Life Site News published another letter by Viganò in which he recounts the events that preceded Francis’s 2015 encounter with Kim Davis, a Kentucky clerk who refused to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Viganò claims that the controversial meeting was planned, rather than accidental, as the pope has maintained.
Prior to Viganò’s letters, Acting President Father Kenneth Sicard, O.P., addressed the Providence College community via email on Thursday, August 23 in regard to the growing news of church scandals. “There is anger, pain, and a deep sense of betrayal among the faithful and the clergy alike,” Sicard stated. “Here on campus, there are many whose anger leads them to question what it means to be associated with an institution that so proudly identifies itself as Catholic and Dominican during this time of darkness.”
With the return of students for the new school year, Sicard called for the entire PC community to unite in healing and rebuilding. He also stated that the College pledges to care for victims of sexual abuse of any measure. “Together, let us pray for courage, guidance, and God’s grace to address problems in the coming weeks and months that feel insurmountable,” concluded Sicard. “Then and only then can real reform and renewal happen.”