“Are you as the Holy Father, and leader of the Vatican… going to have an investigation into all the cover-up and corruption?”
This is the question a victim of abuse by a Catholic priest asked Pope Francis, during his visit to Ireland. pic.twitter.com/7gxzCrfJQE
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) August 27, 2018
As new reports of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy mount, a victim’s recounting of his 90-minute meeting with Pope Francis in Ireland is among several developments putting a spotlight on the Vatican and its response to the crisis.
An Irish man named Damian who said he was abused by a priest, recounted a question he posed to the pope during a papal visit to Dublin over the weekend.
“Are you as the Holy Father, and leader of the Vatican and worldwide church,” he asked, “going to have an investigation into all the cover-up and corruption?”
Amid tears, Damian told Britain’s Channel 4 News “there are thousands and thousands and thousands of people like me” who want to ask the pope that question, “and they want action.”
Damian said Francis, on a pastoral visit to Ireland Saturday and Sunday, replied that he was determined to root out what he described as “corruption and filth.”
On Sunday, however, Francis declined to comment on a claim issued Saturday by a former Vatican ambassador to the United States that the pope ignored sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who was forced to resign last month.
Damian, asked if he believed the pope was sincere about addressing the abuse issue, said he “believed him as a person,” adding he thought him to be “a very genuine person.”
Damian recalled the pope saying the problem is “massive,” and the Irishman affirmed he came away from the meeting with the impression that the pope is up against a seemingly insurmountable institutional structure. Damian made it clear he was referring to the Roman Curia, the administrative institutions of the Holy See through which the pope conducts the affairs of the global church.
But Damian insisted the pope must “tell the world” if he feels isolated, promising that “the world will support him.”
However, if Francis isn’t forthcoming, Damian told Channel 4, he will be held responsible.
“If you don’t tell us the difficulties you’re having, you’ll fall by this,” Damian said, directly his words to Pope Francis.
Former Vatican envoy Carlo Maria Vigano said Saturday he told Francis of the allegations in 2013 against McCarrick, Agence France-Presse reported
Rather than punish McCarrick, the archbishop was forced to resign. And Vigano pointed out Francis had lifted sanctions imposed on McCarrick by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
“Corruption has reached the very top of the Church’s hierarchy,” Vigano said in an 11-page letter published in the National Catholic Register and several conservative U.S. Catholic publications.
Francis refused to address Vigano’s allegation on Sunday as he flew back to Rome from Dublin.
“I will not say a word about that. I think that the communique speaks for itself,” Francis said.
AFP said the timing of the letter’s release, amid a landmark trip to Ireland, has raised speculation of a campaign by conservatives in the church to bring down the progressive pope.
An editorial article on the website of the progressive National Catholic Reporter weekly said: “Make no mistake. This is a coordinated attack on Pope Francis.”
However, a former Vatican diplomat insisted Vigano told “the truth.”
Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, the former first counsellor at the apostolic nunciature in Washington D.C., was mentioned by Vigano in his letter as a witness of the 2013 meeting in which Francis was informed of the allegations against McCarrick.
Lantheaume, who has now left the Vatican diplomatic corps, declined to give an interview to the Catholic News Agency, but he issued a brief confirmation.
“Viganò said the truth. That’s all,” he wrote to CNA.
The Catholic News agency reported the former nuncio named three different Vatican secretaries of state — Cardinals Angelo Sodano, Tarcissio Bertone, and Pietro Parolin — as having either supported McCarrick or failed to confront his behavior.
Viganò says he warned the pope about the numerous allegations against McCarrick, but Francis did not respond.
‘Men of God … did nothing’
The sexual-abuse scandal resurfaced this month with the release of a report by a Pennsylvania grand jury assembled by Attorney General Josh Shapiro. It revealed, based on internal documents from six Catholic dioceses in the state, that more than 300 “predator priests” have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims.
“We believe that the real number of children whose records were lost or who were afraid ever to come forward is in the thousands,” the report says.
“Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted.”
Since the report’s release, the AG’s office has received 485 calls, according to communications director Joe Grace.
Grace said a “sizable number” of calls report allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy.
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has received about 50 new allegations of abuse over the past week, according to a diocese spokesman, CNN reported. The Rev. Nicholas S. Vaskov, executive director of communications for the dioceses, said all the allegations date prior to 1990 and as far back as the 1940s.