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August 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The questions raised by former U.S. nuncio Archbishop Carlo Viganò in his testimony implicating Pope Francis and senior prelates in covering up Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s serial sex abuse “deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence,” the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said.
In a statement released today, USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said the following:
On August 1st, I promised that USCCB would exercise the full extent of its authority, and would advocate before those with greater authority, to pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. On August 16th, I called for an Apostolic Visitation, working in concert with a national lay commission granted independent authority, to seek the truth. Yesterday, I convened our Executive Committee once again, and it reaffirmed the call for a prompt and thorough examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement.
The recent letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò brings particular focus and urgency to this examination,” said DiNardo. “The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.”
The USCCB has spent the summer dealing with the aftermath of revelations about McCarrick, who resigned from the College of Cardinals at the end of July, and fallout from a Pennsylvania grand jury report on decades of clerical sex abuse and its systematic cover-up by church officials, including bishops.
As LifeSiteNews reported, Viganò testified that Pope Benedict XVI “imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis,” and that Viganò personally spoke with Francis about the gravity of McCarrick’s abuse soon after his election in 2013.
According to Viganò, Pope Francis “continued to cover him” and not only did he “not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on him” but also made McCarrick “his trusted counselor” who helped him to appoint a number of bishops in the United States, including Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Joseph Tobin of Newark.
Viganò said that American prelates like Washington, D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl knew about McCarrick’s predation and are lying now when they say they were clueless: “Cardinal Wuerl, well aware of the continuous abuses committed by Cardinal McCarrick and the sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict, transgressing the Pope’s order, also allowed him to reside at a seminary in Washington D.C. In doing so, he put other seminarians at risk.” (Wuerl, the former bishop of Pittsburgh, is also mentioned in the Pennsylvania grand jury report more than 200 times.)
DiNardo’s statement did not acknowledge that the pope himself is implicated in Viganò’s testimony.
“I am eager for an audience with the Holy Father to earn his support for our plan of action,” said DiNardo. “That plan includes more detailed proposals to: seek out these answers, make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier, and improve procedures for resolving complaints against bishops.”
“Inspired by his recent letter to the people of God, and his motu proprio of two years ago, As a Loving Mother, I am confident Pope Francis shares our desire for greater effectiveness and transparency in the matter of disciplining bishops,” continued DiNardo. “We renew our fraternal affection for the Holy Father in these difficult days.”
Wuerl released a statement today suggesting that investigation of Viganò’s testimony be rolled into the Apostolic Visitation, something that will likely frustrate Catholics who see Wuerl and the U.S. bishops as trying to obfuscate more evidence of clerical misconduct and bishops’ complicity in it.
The cardinal concluded by offering an apology to victims of priestly sex abuse, mentioning that since the 2002 sex abuse scandal the Church has become more accountable.
“In other ways, we have failed you,” DiNardo said. “This is especially true for adults being sexually harassed by those in positions of power, and for any abuse or harassment perpetrated by a bishop. We will do better. The more she is buffeted by storms, the more I am reminded that the Church's firm foundation is Jesus Christ. The failures of men cannot diminish the light of the Gospel. Lord, by the help of your mercy, show us the way to salvation.”
McCarrick was one of the Church leaders tasked with promoting to the media the U.S. bishops’ 2002 charter on protecting children. A repeated complaint about that document has been that it didn’t adequately address sex abuse committed by members of the hierarchy.