A top Catholic Church figure has weighed in after another official published a letter calling on Pope Francis to resign and accusing senior Vatican officials of covering up widespread sexual abuse for decades.
“I do think it’s about limiting the days of this pope, and short of that, neutering his voice or casting ambiguity around him,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin, who was appointed by Pope Francis in 2016, told The New York Times on Monday. “And it’s part of a larger upheaval both within and without the church.”
The 11-page letter, written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and published on two conservative Catholic news platforms over the weekend, alleged officials were aware that ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, formerly the archbishop of Washington, molested young seminarians as early as 2000.
According to Viganò, Pope Francis also learned of McCarrick’s behavior in 2013 and subsequently rehabilitated him (Pope Benedict XVI had reportedly sanctioned McCarrick in 2009 or 2010). McCarrick resigned last month after various news outlets published accounts of his alleged abuse.
“I won’t say a word about it,” Francis said Sunday when asked about the accusations.
Some who fall on the more liberal side of the church have rushed to the pope’s defense, dismissing the letter as a hit piece and reminding audiences of how conservative Viganò’s views are (he blames sexual abuse on homosexuality). More conservative officials, like Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, rushed to Viganò’s defense.
Partisan schisms aside, the letter places added pressure on the pope, who has already been under fire after a grand jury report released earlier this month found evidence of sexual abuse within Pennsylvania’s church having been covered up on a heinous scale. More than 1,000 children were abused in a period of more than 70 years.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story and headline mischaracterized Tobin’s statement to The New York Times as a call for Pope Francis to resign. His comment was, rather, describing his assessment of the archbishop’s accusations. We regret the error.