Pope Remains Silent on Sex Abuse Allegations, Announces Environmental Event

Pope Francis delivers his speech during his audience for members of the International Pilg

Pope Francis offered a generic apology Wednesday for “ecclesiastical authorities in the past” who have not always been able to deal appropriately with crimes of sexual abuse, while maintaining his silence regarding recent 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.

Pressure is mounting against the pope, however, to answer charges that he was personally aware of the serial homosexual abuse of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and yet chose to reinstate him to a position of prominence, going so far as to make him a personal advisor in naming future bishops.

Last Saturday, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò—the former papal nuncio to the United States—released an 11-page affidavit alleging that Pope Benedict had imposed “canonical sanctions” on Cardinal McCarrick in 2009-2010 forbidding him from traveling, celebrating Mass in public, or participating in public meetings, but that Pope Francis later lifted these sanctions and made McCarrick a close personal counselor.

Nonetheless, when asked about these allegations Sunday, Pope Francis dodged questions from reporters, telling reporters to read the accusations and make their own assessment of their credibility.

On the papal plane returning from Ireland, a journalist asked the pope outright 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.

“May I ask you whether these two things are true?” said Anna Matranga of CBS News.

Pope Francis acknowledged having read the statement, but refused to answer the question.

“I won’t say a word about this,” he said.

Ms. Matranga then asked the pope: “When was the first time that you heard about the abuses committed by the former cardinal?”

The pope continued to demur, reiterating his decision not to speak about the allegations.

Following this performance, two U.S. bishops have criticized the pope for his strategy of “no comment,” noting that such a posture is completely inadequate in the present circumstances.

Although the pope continued his attitude of silence regarding allegations Wednesday, he returned to one of his favorite topics: the environment.

At the end of his General Audience, Francis announced that next Saturday is “the fourth World Day of Prayer for the care of creation,” which we celebrate in union with our Orthodox brothers and sisters and with the accession of other Churches and Christian Communities.

In this year’s Message, he said, “I would like to draw attention to the question of water, a primary asset to be protected and made available to all.”

In highlighting care for the environment, Pope Francis echoed recent statements by the archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Blase Cupich, who told NBC News Tuesday that answering the grave 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,” Cardinal Cupich said.

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

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