Pope Francis deflected questions from reporters about his alleged lifting of sanctions imposed on Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for sexual abuse, telling reporters Sunday to read the accusations and make their own assessment of their credibility.
On the papal plane returning from Ireland Sunday night, a journalist asked the pope point blank whether allegations were true that the papal nuncio to the United States had explicitly informed him in 2013 of sexual abuse perpetrated by Cardinal McCarrick and subsequent sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict XVI, including restrictions on his travel and appearances in public.
“May I ask you whether these two things are true?” said Anna Matranga of CBS News.
“I would prefer—even though I will respond to your question—I would prefer to speak first about this trip and then about other topics, but I will respond,” the pope said.
“I read that statement this morning,” he said, in reference to an 11-page affidavit by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal nuncio to the United States, which claimed that the pope knew about McCarrick’s misdeeds and yet reinstated him to a position of influence within the Vatican.
“I read it and sincerely I must tell you this, you and all of you who are interested, read the statement carefully and come to your own conclusion. I won’t say a word about this,” he said.
“I believe that the statement speaks for itself and you have the sufficient journalistic ability to draw your own conclusions. This is an act of trust. When some time has passed and you have come to your conclusions, maybe I will speak,” he said.
“But I would like your professional maturity to do this work. It will be good for you. That’s good,” he said.
Pressing further, Ms. Matranga asked a follow-up question: “I want to ask you: when was the first time that you heard about the abuses committed by the former cardinal?”
The pope demurred further, refusing to answer the direct question.
“This comes out in the statement regarding McCarrick. Study it and then I will speak,” he said.
“I await your comments on the document. I would like that,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome