The fall-out from the Pennsylvania grand jury report documenting decades of sexual abuse within the Catholic church continued as critics are now blaming the Vatican and even beloved Pope Francis for possibly participating in covering up the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy.
On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro doubled down on his claims that the Vatican was aware of the sex abuse going on in Pennsylvania and participated in the cover-up.
“They [the grand jury] found that not only was there widespread sexual abuse, rape of children, but they found that there was a systematic cover-up that went all the way to the Vatican,” Shapiro said on Tuesday on NBC’s Today morning talk show. “What was so profoundly horrifying about this was Church leaders would lie to parishioners on Sunday, they would lie to the public, they would shield these predators from law enforcement, but then they would document all of it and place it in in the secret archives.”
Shapiro, as he previously asserted at the time of the grand jury report’s release, asserted that clergy members and Vatican officials knowingly shielded priests from the eyes of the law by covering up the abuse and moving predator priests to different assignments.
Shapiro added that in two weeks, his office has received 733 calls to its special clergy abuse hotline.
But he stopped short of directly accusing Pope Francis, who was elected in 2013, and replaced Pope Benedict XVI, the first pope to resign from the office in six centuries. The Pope has apologized extensively for the abuse and ensuing cover-up.
“We have evidence that the Vatican had knowledge of the cover-up – I can’t specifically speak to Pope Francis,” Shapiro said.
Accusations against Pope Francis
However, the Pope has come under scrutiny, with a fellow church leader saying the Holy Father was indeed complicit with the cover-up of some sexual abuse in the Church.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 77, accused Pope Francis of knowing about sex abuse by a former U.S. archbishop and demanded he resign.
“Francis is abdicating the mandate which Christ gave to Peter to confirm the brethren,” Viganò wrote in an 11-page letter, in which he accused Francis of knowingly repealing sanctions set against former Washington D.C. Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who allegedly sexually abused seminarians and young priests.
“Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them,” Viganò wrote.
Francis, who was confronted with these accusations after visiting Ireland to apologize for the sex abuse scandals that have erupted there, said he would not comment on the letter.
“Read the document carefully and judge it for yourselves,” Pope Francis said. “I will not say one word on this. I think the statement speaks for itself, and you have sufficient journalistic capacity to reach your own conclusions.”
Viganò’s credibility has been questioned, with some critics noting he holds homophobic stances. He lost his position in 2016 after arranging the Pope’s 2016 trip to the U.S., which included a mass in Philadelphia, but more controversially, included a visit with a Kentucky court clerk who had refused to acknowledge gay marriages. It remains unclear if his claims will be proven or if they merely symbolize an unresolved feud amongst church leadership.