Pope Francis Refuses to Confirm or Deny Allegations That He Covered Up Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s Alleged Sex Abuse

Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Aug. 22, 2018.
Andrew Medichini/AP

In the midst of an already contentious visit to a country ripe with anger over neglected abuses within the Catholic church, Pope Francis declined to address the contents of a letter released Sunday morning alleging that he knew about sex abuse allegations against former Washington, D.C., archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for years and didn’t take proper action.

The 11-page letter, penned by former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, was published on two conservative websites often critical of the pope. It alleges that both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict knew that McCarrick — who resigned from his D.C. post in July after he was accused of abusing adults and minors — was a “serial predator.”

ABC News could not independently confirm the letter’s claims.

On the papal plane after his second day in Ireland, Pope Francis declined to refute or confirm the allegations mentioned in the letter, urging the journalists aboard the plane only to consider the source and make their own judgment.

“I will not say a single word about this,” Pope Francis said, adding that it “speaks for itself.”

In it, Viganò alleges that he told Pope Francis in 2013, “I don’t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation for Bishops there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.”

Viganò alleges that McCarrick was sanctioned at one point by Pope Benedict — though he admits it was after “incredible delay” — but was “rehabilitated” under Pope Francis.

“[Pope Francis] must honestly state when he first learned about the crimes committed by McCarrick, who abused his authority with seminarians and priests,” wrote Viganò, a well-known conservative official who is critical of the pope’s more-liberal approaches on social issues.

He asserted that the pope only took action to discipline McCarrick after media reports began to circulate this summer and, in order to “tear down the conspiracy of silence … not so dissimilar from the one that prevails in the mafia.” Viganò called for Pope Francis to resign.

“Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them,” wrote Viganò.

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SOURCE: ABC News, Cheyenne Haslett