Major Archbishop: Pope Francis Covered Up Sex Abuse, Must Resign

An interview with the author of The Dictator Pope

By John Zmirak Published on August 28, 2018

You’ve probably seen the blockbuster reports. The Vatican’s former ambassador (“nuncio”) to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, has broken the silence around Pope Francis’ tolerance of sex abuse. In a blistering letter released on Saturday, Viganò named names. He showed us where the bodies are buried.

Viganò testified that Pope Francis knew that former Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had molested seminarians. He explains how, where, and when Pope Francis was told of it. And as he did in previous abuse cases, Pope Francis did nothing, even siding with the accused. (Recall that one of Francis’ big boosters in his rise to the papacy was the scandal-befouled Cardinal Danneels of Belgium. Francis plucked him out of disgrace after taking power.)

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Viganò notes that former Pope Benedict XVI learned of McCarrick’s crimes — and slapped McCarrick with harsh sanctions. Pope Francis took office, and lifted them. Viganò also points to a cabal of pro-gay clerics advanced by Pope Francis. They likewise had to know about McCarrick’s sins and crimes, but said nothing. In fact, they became his allies. Viganò names cardinals Francis minted. They include Kevin Farrell (of Dallas, now at the Vatican), Blase Cupich of Chicago, and Joseph Tobin of Newark. Also complicit was Francis ally Francis Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

Wuerl is now under pressure to resign. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s report exposed his shuffling of sex abusers. Likewise his payment of hush-money to a molester priest in a kiddie porn ring.

We urge you to read the letter yourself. In a church known for secrets and collegiality, it’s a shockingly candid cry from the heart by a long-time high-ranking bishop. And it culminates with Viganò’s unprecedented call for Pope Francis himself to resign.

Pope Francis, consulted by reporters about the letter, was uncharacteristically quiet. He said he would not comment on its contents, inviting people to judge for themselves.

For insight, The Stream interviewed papal biographer Henry Sire (“Marcantonio Colonna”), author of The Dictator Pope


Which of Pope Francis’ actions, as Viganò reported, do you consider morally most troubling and why?

Abp Viganò’s indictment is so wide-ranging. It is difficult to pick out points. Perhaps the one we most need to pay attention to is the way Pope Francis, after his election, made Cardinal McCarrick his trusted adviser. Alongside, of course, with Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga. Abp. Viganò makes clear the truly evil regime that Cardinal Maradiaga is running in his own archdiocese. Aside from that, Viganò’s accusation of Francis himself is unequivocal. He speaks of “the grave, disconcerting and sinful conduct of Pope Francis.” He asks, “How many other evil pastors is Francis still continuing to prop up in their active destruction of the Church!”

Henry Sire

Henry Sire

Can you tell us about Abp. Vigano? Do you know him — can you speak to his reliability as a witness? What does he risk by saying all this?

I don’t know Abp Viganò personally. But I would point out that he suffered as early as 2011. Then he was Secretary of the Governorate of Rome. He was dismissed when his efforts to reform the Roman bureaucracy proved inconvenient to his superiors. His appointment as papal Nuncio in the United States was a form of exile to punish him. Both those posts gave him an unrivaled position to see from the inside the abuses he is exposing. He is now retired and therefore able to speak out freely. But there is no knowing what retaliation he may suffer.


How credible do you find these accusations? It appears that former Pope Benedict has confirmed the key assertion, regarding McCarrick.

Abp. Viganò is saying what those who watch Church developments have been observing for a long time. But he adds invaluable insights of his own. I wish that Pope Benedict would see it as his duty to confirm the other things that Abp. Viganò says, so that we may hear the truth from the highest authority.

Pope Francis has deliberately surrounded himself with morally weak people because of the hold it gives him over them.

Pope Benedict, late in his reign, ordered a massive investigation of homosexual networks in the Vatican. He received the 300+ page dossier, read it, and shortly afterward resigned. Does Vigano’s testimony throw any light on his likely reasons?

The dossier you mention related to the situation in the Curia. Abp. Viganò is concerned more with that in the United States. Suffice it to say that Pope Benedict resigned in the hope that his successor would clean the Augean Stables. In fact the opposite has happened: Pope Francis has allied himself precisely with the most corrupt elements in the clergy, both in Rome and in the whole world.

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Isn’t the Vatican obligated to lift the veil of secrecy and make that dossier public, if it ever wants to regain our trust?

If we have a genuine reformer as the next pope — and if we don’t the Church is headed for utter disaster — his first priority must indeed be to let in the light of day on this and all the other aspects of the corruption with which the Church is riddled.


It seems that many of the leading cardinals whom Francis appointed or advanced — Tobin, Cupich, Farrell, Wuerl — are tied to McCarrick. How plausible is it that all of them — as they are claiming — were ignorant of his record as a molester?

Totally impossible, as Abp Viganò says quite clearly. He explicitly accuses Wuerl and Farrell of lying shamelessly.

Francis is now reaping the fruits of his own methods. The more tricks he tries, the more he enmeshes himself. A wholly unscrupulous man in the Chair of Peter may survive for a while, but in the end he will bring himself down.

It appears that at around the same time Pope Francis was lifting all penalties against Cardinal McCarrick for molesting seminarians, he was also preparing a document that condemned air conditioning as sinful. A week after the McCarrick revelations, Francis announced that he was changing Church teaching on capital punishment. What should we think of such a pope?

That, to use Abp Viganò’s words, he “is abdicating the mandate which Christ gave to St Peter”. As I argue in The Dictator Pope, Pope Francis has staked his whole pontificate on playing for popularity with the secular media. He tells them what they want to hear. So they praise him unreservedly. It is a slick, cynical strategy. But unfortunately for Pope Francis, he has now run into an area in which the media are capable of turning against him.


Many were scandalized when, back in May, Pope Francis reportedly told a young man that God had “made him gay.” But this young man had been molested at a formative age by a priest — a priest whose protectors and enablers Pope Francis had promoted, scorning the testimony of victims, including that young man. What do you think Pope Francis should say to the young man whom Cardinal McCarrick baptized with his own hands, then later molested?

To say that God makes anyone sexually perverted is as misleading as to say that He makes people alcoholics or kleptomaniacs. The Church’s teaching on this subject has been subverted by false pastors, and by no-one more than Pope Francis in his repeated pronouncements on the topic.


dictator pope2_

If they’re verified, how do these papal actions by Francis fit the personal style you described (in The Dictator Pope) going back decades?

As I have described, Bergoglio throughout his career has followed a consistent policy of inaction when cases of clerical corruption are reported to him, and he has deliberately surrounded himself with morally weak people because of the hold it gives him over them. That is why the revelations made by Abp Viganò are completely in character.


What are the prospects that Pope Francis will resign, as Abp. Vigano called on him to do? If he doesn’t, what actions should we expect? What would be in character for him?

It will certainly not be in character for Pope Francis to go easily. We can expect him to look for a way of deflecting the scandal, as he did in the case of the Chilean bishops, who resigned en masse for a blunder that was his alone. But we need to realize that Francis is now reaping the fruits of his own methods. The more tricks he tries, the more he enmeshes himself. A wholly unscrupulous man in the Chair of Peter may survive for a while, but in the end he will bring himself down.


Do you think that cardinals implicated in this scandal should be permitted to vote in the next papal conclave? Should the conservative Italian government ban them from Italy to prevent that appalling scandal?  

Many of the College of Cardinals are morally discredited, but I don’t see any likelihood of their being excluded from the next Conclave. Let us pray that the majority of the cardinals are responding to this disaster with the shame and the desire for reform that any decent person would feel. Shame at having elected Bergoglio in the first place, and desire for a reform which he was elected to introduce and which he has so signally failed to deliver.

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