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Catholic abuse scandal

Archbishop's letter alleges Pope Francis covered for cardinal accused of sexual abuse

An 11-page letter from retired Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former Vatican ambassador (or nuncio) to the United States, accuses Pope Francis of covering for and elevating Theodore McCarrick, a prominent cardinal and former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who resigned his post in July amid sexual abuse allegations. Vigano's missive, published Saturday, calls for Francis to resign as well.

Per Vigano's account, McCarrick's misconduct with seminarians was known in Catholic hierarchy for years, and former Pope Benedict XVI ordered him to seclusion for prayer and penance nearly a decade ago. Pope Francis allegedly removed those unconfirmed sanctions and made McCarrick "his trusted counselor" despite knowing him to be a "serial predator."

In June 2013, Vigano says, Pope Francis asked his assessment of McCarrick during a private audience. "Holy Father, I don't know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation of Bishops, there is a dossier this thick about him," Vigano says he replied. "He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests." Vigano writes he now believes Francis was being "deceitful," gauging whether Vigano "was an ally of McCarrick or not."

Vigano is a conservative who has clashed with the more liberal Francis. His letter also accuses a number of other high-ranking ecclesial figures, some of whom have also had conflict with Vigano in the past. Vigano told the National Catholic Register he wrote the letter to help "stop the suffering of the victims, to prevent new victims, and to protect the Church: Only the truth can make her free."