Pope Francis refused to directly answer whether he knew about disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s alleged sexual abuses.
He was asked Sunday night about his knowledge of McCarrick, 88, on the papal plane returning from Ireland, where the pontiff held an outdoor Mass that only drew approximately 130,000 congregants — a far cry from the 2.7 million people who greeted Pope John Paul II in 1979.
Phoenix Park Papal Mass 1979 v 2018. It's a devastating poor turnout. I was lambasted last night on RTÉ for pointing out the thousands of empty seats in Croke Park. This is the real story of the #PopeInIreland pic.twitter.com/6r0BPNqEXq
— Oliver Callan (@olivercallan) August 26, 2018
CBS News reporter Anna Matranga asked Francis about the bombshell affidavit filed over the weekend by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former top Vatican diplomat in the United States. The journalist asked whether it was true, as Viganò alleged, that the pope knew about McCarrick’s history of abuse way back in 2013.
“I read the statement this morning, and I must tell you sincerely that — I must say this — to you and to all who are interested,” Francis replied, according to the Catholic News Agency. “Read the statement carefully and make your own judgement. I will not say a single word about this. I believe the statement speaks for itself.”
Instead, the leader of the Catholic Church told Matranga she had “sufficient journalistic ability” to draw her own conclusions from the 11-page report. Francis noted he will “maybe” address the issue after “some time has passed.”
The CBS reporter pressed one more time, asking the pope, “When was the first time that you heard about the abuses committed [by] the former cardinal?”
“This is part of the statement about McCarrick,” Francis replied. “Study it and then I will say. … I await your comments on the document. I would like that.”
As for the report, Viganò claimed former Pope Benedict XVI instituted sanctions against McCarrick as a result of his sexual abuse of seminarians and priests. There is, however, no public record of the discipline and the ex-cardinal continued celebrating Mass.
Viganò claimed Francis, once he was appointed pope, failed to apply the sanctions against McCarrick, instead choosing to rehabilitate the disgraced Catholic leader.
McCarrick resigned his post at the College of Cardinals in late July, after about a month of mounting allegations of sexual misconduct.