An embattled Pope Francis on Monday recommended silence and prayer to counter those who “only seek scandal,” division and destruction in what appeared to be an indirect response to allegations that he had covered up for a U.S. cardinal embroiled in sex abuse scandals.
Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former papal envoy in Washington, stunned the faithful last month by claiming Francis allegedly lifted unconfirmed Vatican sanctions against disgraced U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick and demanding that the pope resign.
“With people lacking good will, with people who only seek scandal, who seek only division, who seek only destruction, even within the family — silence, prayer” is the path to take, Francis said in his homily during morning Mass at the Vatican hotel where he lives.
Hours after Vigano made the claim in a statement given to conservative Catholic news media, Francis had told journalists seeking his response that he “won’t say a word” about the claims by the disgruntled former diplomat.
In his homily Monday, Francis indicated he takes his cue from God on whether to speak out or not about Vigano’s allegations. “May the Lord give us the grace to discern when we should speak and when we should stay silent,” Francis said. “This applies to every part of life: to work, at home, in society.”
“Truth is meek, truth is silent, truth isn’t noisy,” the pope said in his Mass remarks.
Pope Francis’ latest remarks come after calling on parishioners Saturday to combat pollution, in which he described ocean littering as an “emergency.” Marking World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, the Pope made the appeal in a message to galvanize Christians and others to work to save what he hails as the “marvelous,” God-given gift of the “great waters and all they contain.” The pope said efforts to fight plastic litter must be waged “as if everything depended on us.”
“Sadly, all too often many efforts fail due to the lack of effective regulation and means of control, particularly with regard to the protection of marine areas beyond national confines,” he said. “We cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic.”
“Here, too, our active commitment is needed to confront this emergency,” he added.
Vigano has contended that while Benedict XVI was pope, he had sanctioned McCarrick, including avoiding public life, but that Francis later allegedly lifted the punishment.
During the years that McCarrick was purportedly under sanctions, the cardinal celebrated public Masses and attended other public functions, even before Francis became pontiff. Vigano claimed that he told Francis, shortly after he was elected pontiff in 2013, that McCarrick had been given sanctions by Benedict.
Weeks before Vigano went public with his claims, Francis in July yanked McCarrick’s cardinal rank after U.S. church panel deemed credible the American had sexually abused an altar boy. McCarrick has denied wrongdoing in that case.
It was the first time that a prelate had lost his cardinal’s rank in a sex abuse scandal, and the move was widely viewed as an indication that Francis was trying to make good on promises to crack down on clerics who either were found to have abused minors or adults or who covered up for priests who did.
The Vatican let several days pass before attempting to knock down some of Vigano’s contentions. On Sunday night, a former Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, and his English-language assistant, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, jointly disputed the prelate’s claims about an embarrassing encounter he arranged with U.S. anti-marriage crusader Kim Davis during Francis’ visit in the United States in 2015.
Vigano last week had insisted that Francis knew very well who Davis was and that the Vatican’s top brass had given advance approval.
Further, Vigano alleges Cardinals Bertone, Sodano, and Wuerl were involved in covering up widespread sex abuse scandals. “I myself brought up the subject with Cardinal Wuerl on several occasions, and I certainly didn’t need to go into detail because it was immediately clear to me that he was fully aware of it,” writes Vigano. Cardinal Wuerl’s “recent statements that he knew nothing about it … are absolutely laughable. He lies shamelessly.”
“Cardinal Wuerl, well aware of the continuous abuses committed by Cardinal McCarrick and the sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict, transgressing the Pope’s order, also allowed him to reside at a seminary in Washington D.C, the church whistleblower contends. “In doing so, he put other seminarians at risk.”
Cardinal Donald Wuerl issued a statement after the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States accused Pope Francis of effectively freeing ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the sanctions in 2013 despite knowing of McCarrick’s sexual predations against seminarians.
Wuerl’s denial corresponds with the public record, which provides ample evidence that McCarrick lived a life completely devoid of ecclesiastic restriction after the sanctions were said to have been imposed in 2009 or 2010. That suggests that Pope Benedict XVI either didn’t impose sanctions or never conveyed them in any official way to the people who could enforce them — or that McCarrick simply flouted them and Benedict’s Vatican was unwilling or unable to stop him.
In response to the explosive allegations, Rosica attests Vigano had revealed Francis had berated him out for “deceiving” him about the meeting and for having not told the pope that Davis had been married four times. Lombardi, who served as spokesman for both Benedict and for a few years also for Francis, contended that the papal envoy should have figure out that the meeting would have caused a furor.
The Davis meeting contributed to chilly relations between Francis and the former diplomat.
Following decades of complaints by faithful in the United States and elsewhere that they were sexually abused as minors or adults by priests, or that their abusers were quietly shuffled from parish to parish, the church, including at the Vatican, has been struggling to effectively deal with the problem, including the role of higher-ups in hiding the abuses.
Pope Francis has quietly reduced sanctions against a handful of pedophile priests, applying his vision of a merciful church even to its worst offenders in ways that survivors of abuse and the pope’s own advisers question.
One case has come back to haunt him: An Italian priest who received the pope’s clemency was later convicted by an Italian criminal court for his sex crimes against children as young as 12. The Rev. Mauro Inzoli is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him, according to the Associated Press.
The Inzoli case is one of several in which Francis overruled the advice of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and reduced a sentence that called for the priest to be defrocked, two canon lawyers and a church official told AP. Instead, the priests were sentenced to penalties including a lifetime of penance and prayer and removal from public ministry.
In some cases, the priests or their high-ranking friends appealed to Francis for clemency by citing the pope’s own words about mercy in their petitions, the church official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the proceedings are confidential.
At the same time, Francis also ordered three longtime staffers at the congregation dismissed, two of whom worked for the discipline section that handles sex abuse cases, the lawyers and church official said.
One is the head of the section and will be replaced before leaving March 31. Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the others too will be replaced and that staffing in the office, which has a yearslong backlog of cases, would be strengthened after Francis recently approved hiring more officials.
As Breitbart News extensively reported, at least 1,000 children were found to have been molested by over 300 Roman Catholic priests across six Pennsylvania dioceses, as senior church officials took steps to cover it up, according to a landmark grand jury report released in August. “The cover-up was sophisticated. And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told reporters. “These documents, from the dioceses’ own ‘Secret Archives,’ formed the backbone of this investigation.”
As a new wave of abuse scandals rock the Roman Catholic church, critics say the Diocese of Lincoln is now paying the price for its unwillingness to change and lack of transparency.
Accusers have been coming forward in recent weeks with allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct by clergy in Nebraska, and the diocese is facing a potential criminal investigation and criticism that it mishandled abusive priests even as it should have been subjected to increased scrutiny after the Boston scandal.
From 2002 to 2015, leaders of the Lincoln diocese refused to participate in annual audits designed to uncover sex abuse allegations and gauge how well church officials were complying with child-protection policies. Church leaders called the audits a pointless endeavor that assumed wrongdoing by the diocese and its priests, but one of the bishops during that period knew of at least two allegations against priests, according to interviews and a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.