Pope Francis ‘Embittered’ by Accusations but Has ‘No Intentions of Retiring’

Pope Francis performs Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, on September 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty

Pope Francis is reportedly “embittered” by allegations that he knowingly promoted a serial sex-offending cardinal but has no plans to retire.

The Italian news agency ANSA cited “close collaborators of the pope” Wednesday in its report of the pontiff’s reaction to an explosive 11-page testimony by the former papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

In his report, the archbishop said that at least since 2013 Pope Francis knew of the serial homosexual abuse perpetrated by U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, along with sanctions imposed on his ministry by Pope Benedict XVI, and yet lifted those sanctions and promoted McCarrick to a position of influence, consulting him for the naming of future bishops.

Confronted with the charges by the media, Pope Francis has adopted a strategy of silence, refusing to utter a “single word” about the veracity of the allegations.

Since then, several bishops have come forward calling for a full investigation into the allegations, which extend to a number of prominent prelates along with the pope. The bishops have maintained that the accusations satisfy the criteria of “credible allegations” and therefore merit a thorough inquiry.

A number of bishops have also criticized the pope’s “no comment” media strategy, noting that only the pope can confirm or deny certain specific charges. Leaving the investigation to the media, as the pope has explicitly done, is an “inadequate” response and risks muddling rather than clarifying the issue.

On Wednesday, Francis once again addressed the topic of clerical sex abuse, offering a generic apology for “ecclesiastical authorities in the past” who did not deal appropriately with crimes of sexual abuse, while maintaining his silence regarding allegations that the he is personally compromised by rehabilitating a known abuser.

“On several occasions I have asked the Lord for forgiveness for these sins, for the scandal and the sense of betrayal procured,” the pope told pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, concerning “members of the Church” who have perpetrated sexual abuse against others, including minors.

While avoiding the subject of the grave allegations leveled against him, the pope instead returned to one of his favorite topics: care for the environment.

At the end of his General Audience on Wednesday, Francis announced that next Saturday is “the fourth World Day of Prayer for the care of creation.” In this year’s Message, which will be released Saturday, the pope said he would focus on “the question of water, a primary asset to be protected and made available to all.”

By pivoting from sex abuse to the environment, Pope Francis confirmed recent statements by the archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Blase Cupich, who told NBC News Tuesday that answering the allegations brought by the former nuncio was not a priority for the pope since he had more important things to worry about, such as the environment and immigration.

“The pope has a bigger agenda. He’s gotta get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church,” the cardinal said.

“We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this,” he said.

After ANSA reported that the pope was “embittered” by the allegations, the Jesuit-run journal America countered with its own report, saying that a source close to Pope Francis told them that he is “very tranquil.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter

.