Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington had been told by Vatican officials to withdraw from public life because of rumours about his sexual misconduct, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops has revealed.
However, because they were only rumours and not proof, then-Pope Benedict XVI never imposed formal sanctions on the retired Washington prelate, which means Pope Francis never lifted them, Cardinal Ouellet wrote at the weekend in an open letter to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Vatican nuncio to the United States.
The archbishop had issued an open letter to Cardinal Ouellet in late September urging him to tell what he knew about now-Archbishop McCarrick. Archbishop Viganò’s letter followed a massive statement in mid-August calling on Pope Francis to resign because, he claimed, Pope Francis had known there were sanctions on Cardinal McCarrick and not only did he lift them, he allegedly made Cardinal McCarrick a trusted confidante and adviser on bishops’ appointments in the United States.
Addressing Archbishop Viganò as “dear brother”, Cardinal Ouellet said: “I understand how bitterness and disappointments have marked your path in the service of the Holy See, but you cannot conclude your priestly life this way, in an open and scandalous rebellion.”
Archbishop Viganò’s letters, he said, “inflict a very painful wound” on the Church, “which you claim to serve better, aggravating divisions and the bewilderment of the people of God!”
Cardinal Ouellet’s letter, written with the approval of Pope Francis, was published the day after the Vatican said the Pope had ordered a “thorough study of the entire documentation present in the archives of the dicasteries and offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively”.
The statement added that “the Holy See is conscious that, from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances, it may emerge that choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues”.
Archbishop Viganò had claimed he personally informed Pope Francis in June 2013 that in “2009 or 2010,” after Cardinal McCarrick had retired, Pope Benedict imposed sanctions on him because of allegations of sexual misconduct with and sexual harassment of seminarians.