The president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has called for an impartial investigation into allegations by the former papal nuncio to the United Stated that Pope Francis turned a blind eye to sexual abuse committed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Reiterating his commitment to pursuing justice for victims, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo said that the recent 11-page report by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, which contained multiple accusations against high-ranking prelates including the pope, could not be ignored.
“The recent letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò brings particular focus and urgency to this examination,” Cardinal DiNardo wrote in a statement posted Sunday on the USCCB website.
“The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence,” he said. “Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.”
Central among the allegations made by the former nuncio was the charge that Pope Francis had known of Cardinal McCarrick’s record of sexual abuse as well as sanctions brought against him by Pope Benedict XVI and yet chose to lift those sanctions and return the cardinal to a position of influence.
The cardinal’s call for “answers” followed on a refusal by Pope Francis on Saturday to say when he first knew about Cardinal McCarrick’s homosexual abuse of seminarians and priests.
“I read that statement this morning,” the pope told reporters in response to a question about the veracity of the report.
Inviting journalists to read the statement themselves and draw their own conclusions, he said, “I won’t say a word about this.”
Anna Matranga of CBS News pressed further, asking, “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.
Earlier this month, Cardinal DiNardo called for an Apostolic Visitation to work together with a national lay commission with independent authority to seek the truth regarding the misdeeds of Cardinal McCarrick.
“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,” he wrote Monday.
The cardinal also said that he was seeking an audience with the pope to request his support for the bishops’ plan of action.
“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,” he said.
The cardinal’s call for an investigation into the allegations made by the former apostolic nuncio followed on similar appeals by two of his brother bishops over the weekend.
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