A top Vatican cardinal issued a scathing rebuke Sunday of the ambassador who accused Pope Francis of covering up the sexual misconduct of a prominent American cardinal, saying his claims were a “blasphemous” political hit job.
Six weeks after Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano threw the papacy into turmoil over his claims about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the head of the Vatican’s bishops office said there was no evidence in his files backing Vigano’s claims that Francis annulled any canonical sanctions against McCarrick.
Ouellet did confirm for the first time that McCarrick, now 88, had been subject to some form of disciplinary measures given uncorroborated “rumors” of misconduct in his past. But Ouellet said the “exhortation” to live a discreet life of prayer stopped short of binding canonical sanctions, precisely because the rumors lacked proof.
Ouellet’s letter was issued Sunday, a day after Francis authorized a “thorough study” of all Vatican archives into how McCarrick rose through the ranks of the Catholic Church despite allegations he sexually preyed on seminarians and young priests.
The letter, addressed to Vigano but identified as an open letter to the faithful, marked an extraordinary end to the official Vatican silence about Vigano’s claims. In it, Ouellet both defended the pope and excoriated Vigano, asserting that the conservative cleric had used the scandal over sexual abuse in the U.S. to score ideological points with Francis’ critics on the Catholic right.
“In response to your unjust and unjustified attack, dear Vigano, I conclude that your accusation is a political setup without any real foundation that could incriminate the pope, and I repeat that it has profoundly wounded the communion of the church,” Ouellet wrote.