The Pope’s American allies don’t seem to be wholly in harmony

Since Pope Francis’s election, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has increasingly reflected the Pontiff’s own priorities. But this may change after the “testimony” of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. The former US nuncio claimed that Benedict XVI attempted to quietly remove Theodore McCarrick from public ministry after hearing reports that he preyed on seminarians and young priests. Viganò accused Francis of rehabilitating McCarrick upon succeeding Benedict and, despite being aware of accusations against him, making McCarrick a “kingmaker” for appointing American bishops.

Among those McCarrick supported, Viganò claims, was Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago. Cupich was plucked from relative obscurity and appointed to a major diocese. A small but influential “Francis party” emerged in the US bishops’ conference: a group of liberal prelates who owed their advancement to the Holy Father.

But the “Francis party” also includes several senior bishops promoted during previous papacies. McCarrick, appointed Archbishop of Washington by John Paul II, is one. So is Cardinal Donald Wuerl, whom Benedict chose to succeed McCarrick in 2010.

Viganò accuses Wuerl and Cupich of knowing about McCarrick’s predatory behaviour but refusing to intervene – and, in Wuerl’s case, even protecting him from scrutiny. They deny the allegations. But their contrasting responses to the former nuncio’s letter suggest the “Francis party” may no longer be as united as it once was.

For his part, Wuerl denied any knowledge of his predecessor’s misdeeds. On August 26, his spokesman told the Catholic Herald that “Cardinal Wuerl did not receive any documentation or information during his time in Washington regarding any actions taken against Archbishop McCarrick.”

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