Amidst the week of explosive and shocking news regarding accounts of abuses committed by priests in Pennsylvania, USA.
An explosive document from a disgruntled Archbishop has sent the Vatican into an uproar this week —- just as Pope Francis has been trying to win back trust for the Catholic Church amid the ongoing sexual abuse scandal.
“Archbishop Viganò is part of a sizable, but minority, conservative traditionalist Catholic group who disagree with the direction this pope is taking the church,” said Gerard O’Connell, Vatican correspondent for America Magazine.
Viganò’s “j’accuse” manifesto weaponized the sexual abuse scandal and pins it directly on Pope Francis.
The Archbishop claimed Pope Francis turned a blind eye for years to the sexual misconduct of a prominent American cleric, former Washington, D.C. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The archbishop accused Pope Francis of indulging “a serial predator” and called on him to resign.
Furthermore, the document dropped with the sort of timing seen in bruising South Carolina political primaries, kneecapping the pope on the highly charged issue just as he’d have to face TV cameras and tough questions from the Vatican press corps on his flight home.
“They wanted to put him on the spot,” said O’Connell, who was on the papal plane.
Viganò is not a lone gunman. He’s an Archbishop and a former papal nuncio, or ambassador, to Washington with close ties to influential U.S. conservatives in the church. The segment thrived under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but has been frustrated by Pope Francis’ more tolerant tone on divorce, homosexuality and immigration.
Viganò made news once before, during the pope’s 2015 trip to the U.S. He arranged a controversial photo opportunity for Pope Francis with Kim Davis, a Kentucky clerk who refused marriage licenses to same sex couples, causing one of the few big controversies of the trip.
He did not last long in the job after that and retired a year later.
Vigano’s ideological allies have leapt to his defense, even as supporters of Pope Francis have been sharply critical of this public swipe at the pontiff from inside the church, which is unprecedented in modern times.
“If true, Vigano’s charges will exhaust the energy of the remainder of this pontificate,” wrote Fr Raymond de Souza in the Catholic Herald. “He is a long-serving, respected Vatican official, therefore his claims merit proper investigation.”