The Argentinian Bishops Conference has closed ranks around Pope Francis, calling recent allegations that the pontiff covered up a cardinal’s serial sexual abuse a “ruthless attack.”
The leaders of the Argentine Episcopal Conference (CEA) sent a letter to Pope Francis expressing their “fraternal and filial closeness” at a time in which he is “suffering a ruthless attack motivated by various petty-minded worldly interests.”
“As the pilgrim people of God in Argentina, pastors and faithful, we want to show you our fraternal and filial closeness,” the bishops wrote, noting that they share the pope’s “sorrows and hopes.”
This show of support follows on the publication August 25 of a written testimony by the former papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, that accuses a number of high-ranking prelates, including the pope, of knowingly covering up the serial homosexual abuse perpetrated by U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Viganò alleged that even after being apprised of the abuses and of prior sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI against McCarrick, the pope rehabilitated him and gave him a role in influencing the naming of future bishops.
Asked by journalists on the papal plane about the allegations last Sunday, Pope Francis acknowledged having read the report but refused to confirm or deny its contents.
Pressed further to say when he first learned of the abuses committed by McCarrick, the pope once again declined to respond, telling journalists to make their own judgment regarding the allegations.
The letter of support from the Argentinian bishops also comes in the midst of statements by a number of U.S. bishops calling for a thorough investigation into the allegations brought by the former papal nuncio. Several have said they know the archbishop to be a man of integrity, suggesting that the accusations meet the necessary criteria to be deemed “credible allegations.”
A report this week by the Italian news service ANSA said that Pope Francis is “embittered” by allegations that he knowingly promoted a serial sex-offending cardinal but that has no plans to retire, citing “close collaborators of the pope.”
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