ROME, May 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — For what appears to be the first time, Pope Francis has openly denied that he knew anything of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s immoral activities, directly contradicting Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s account of their conversation on the subject.
“I didn’t know anything … nothing, nothing,” Pope Francis said in a new interview published on Tuesday in Vatican News.
In response, the former apostolic nuncio to the United States has directly accused Pope Francis of lying.
In comments to LifeSite following the release of the interview, Archbishop Viganò said: “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.”
Both interviews coincide with the release of a leaked correspondence between Pope Francis, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, confirming that restrictions were placed on McCarrick by the Vatican in 2008, and that the former cardinal (who has now been laicized over charges of sexual abuse) travelled extensively during the Francis pontificate, playing a key diplomatic role in establishing the controversial Vatican accord with Communist China.
The new interview
In the May 28 interview with Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki, Pope Francis sought to explain why he has never openly denied Archbishop Vigano’s original testimony, while issuing a denial seemingly for the first time.
Readers will recall that news of the former US nuncio’s testimony broke last August 25, while Pope Francis was attending the World Meeting Families in Dublin. One day later, during an inflight press conference on his return to Rome, the Pope sidestepped questions about the explosive allegations that he knew of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s abuse.
“Read the [Viganò] statement carefully yourselves and make your own judgment. I am not going to say a word about this,” the Pope told journalists aboard the papal plane (see video here).
“You all have sufficient journalistic ability to draw conclusions,” he said.
“It is an act of trust,” the Holy Father added. “When a little time goes by, and you have drawn conclusions, perhaps I will speak about it, but I would like your professional maturity to do this work. It will do you all good, really.”
In today’s interview with Alazraki, the journalist and long-time friend of John Paul II candidly tells Pope Francis: “That silence has been very burdensome, because for the press and for many people, when one is silent it is like a husband and wife, isn’t it? You catch your husband and he doesn’t answer you. And you say, ‘There’s something rotten here.’”
“So why the silence?” Alazraki pointedly asks Pope Francis. “The time has come to answer that question we asked you on the plane.”
“Yes,” Pope Francis responds. “Those who have studied Roman law say that silence is a way of speaking.”
The Viganò case: I saw it, I hadn’t read the whole letter. I saw a little and I already knew what it was, and I made a choice: I trust the honesty of journalists and I said to them, “Look, here you have everything. Study it and draw your conclusions.” And that’s what you did, because you did the work, that was great, and I was very careful to say things weren’t there but then, three or four months later, a judge in Milan said them when he was convicted.
“You’re talking about his family,” Alazraki asks.
“Of course,” the Pope responds. “I kept quiet, why should I make it worse. Let the journalists find out. And you found it, you found that whole world. It was a silence of trust towards you … And the result was good, it was better than if I had started to explain, to defend myself.”
Pope Francis is suggesting that Archbishop Viganò has been exposed as unreliable because of a legal conflict with his brother that was settled in a Milan court.
In comments to LifeSite, Archbishop Viganò dismissed the Pope’s attempt to cast doubt on his reliability over a dispute with his brother concerning the management of their inheritance — a question he pointed out had “no relevance to the allegations regarding Cardinal McCarrick.”
“What Pope Francis said regarding the Milan ruling and my family has nothing to do with anything, because it has been completely clarified. It was only a division of property between brothers. I accepted it to make peace. Neither me nor my brother appealed the ruling, so the story ended there. And it has nothing to do with McCarrick. It is one of the many stories that they raised to destroy my credibility.”
In Oct. 2018, the Vatican announced that a “thorough study” of all relevant documents on McCarrick housed in Vatican offices would be conducted. It’s unclear however why Pope Francis would require an archival investigation to say whether he knew about Cardinal McCarrick’s misdeeds.
In his comments to LifeSite, Archbishop Viganò noted:
“On the return flight from Dublin, the Pope told journalists: ‘I trust in your professionalism.’ He promised to provide documents and he doesn’t provide the documents. Tell me how journalists are supposed to know the truth if you don’t provide the documents. How much time has passed since the Vatican promised an investigation? It’s all a contradiction. He completely contradicts himself.”
“The Pope pretends not to remember what I told him about McCarrick,” Archbishop Viganò added. “He pretends that it wasn’t him who asked me about McCarrick in the first place. And he pretends not to remember what I told him.”
The Pope even claimed during the interview that there have been allegations that Archbishop Viganò was bribed to make damaging claims about him [it is obscure to whom the Holy Father is referring], insinuating in the context a comparison of the former US nuncio to Judas Iscariot.
Pressing Pope Francis
In the May 28 interview, Alazraki presses Pope Francis further on whether or not he knew about former cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s misdeeds.
“I didn’t know anything about McCarrick, obviously, nothing, nothing,” he says. “I’ve said that several times, that I didn’t know, I had no idea.”
It’s unclear as to what Pope Francis is referring to when he says that he denied knowledge of McCarrick’s immoral activities on several occasions as his refusal to comment one way or another has been a particularly notable element of the scandal.
Pope Francis continues: “When [Archbishop Viganò] says that he spoke to me that day [on June 23, 2013], that he came … I don’t remember if he told me about this, whether it’s true or not, no idea! But you know that I didn’t know anything about McCarrick; otherwise I wouldn’t have kept quiet, right?”
Archbishop Viganò observed of this remark: “He tries to be clever, claiming that he doesn’t remember what I told him, when he was the one who asked me about McCarrick.”
The Pope says in the interview that there was a twofold reason for his silence. “First,” he tells Alazraki, “because the evidence was there, you judge. It was really an act of trust.”
“Secondly,” he adds, “because of the [example of Jesus], that in moments of viciousness it is better not to speak, because it makes it worse. Everything is going to go against you. The Lord taught use that path and I follow it.”
News of Pope Francis’s comments about Archbishop Viganò coincided with the release on Tuesday of a correspondence between Theodore McCarrick, Pope Francis and Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
The correspondence, obtained by former aide to Theodore McCarrick, American Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, confirms that restrictions were placed on Theodore McCarrick by the Vatican in 2008, and that the former cardinal, who was laicized over charges of sexual abuse, travelled extensively during the Francis pontificate, playing a key diplomatic role in establishing a Vatican accord with China.
Asked today about the correspondence, Archbishop Viganò told LifeSite “the letters sing.”
“Msgr. Figueiredo was McCarrick’s personal secretary when he came to Rome,” the former US nuncio said. “He has released these letters from McCarrick to Parolin and the Pope in which he reports on his trips to China, to Iran and other places. Therefore, they were all well informed about this.”
Archbishop Viganò also noted that the correspondence shows that the Vatican was informed about the fact that McCarrick was sharing a bed with seminarians. “McCarrick admitted it,” he said.
“To defend himself with the Pope, McCarrick said he never had sexual relations with anyone, but that he slept in the same bed with seminarians and priests,” the former US nuncio said.
Archbishop Viganò explained:
It’s the same thing he said before the ruling from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The sentence to reduce him to the lay state him was based on abuse against adults, minors and also abuse in Confession. Either the sentence from the Holy Office [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] is irrelevant, or what McCarrick said, that he never had relations with anyone, is a lie — just like what the Pope said about not knowing anything is a lie, just like what he said about not remembering what I told him is a lie, when he was the one who asked me.
The former nuncio to the United States also noted that the letters confirm Cardinal Parolin’s involvement in the McCarrick affair, adding that it’s time for him to be investigated.
“As I wrote in my first testimony, in May 2014 — when the article came out in the Washington Times referring to McCarrick’s trip to Central Africa — I wrote to Cardinal Parolin, asking him: Are the restrictions that were placed on McCarrick still valid or not?”
“Parolin never responded to me,” the archbishop said, adding that the Vatican Secretary of State should also be investigated. “He never responded to my letter, because he is a total yes man, as we see with the China deal.”