(RNS) — A series of leaked emails has revived a long-simmering scandal involving defrocked Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, providing new evidence that the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., was disciplined after allegations of sexual misconduct but was nevertheless allowed to travel and work under both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
The emails appear to confirm some of the claims made last year by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former Vatican diplomat to the U.S., but do not appear to corroborate allegations that Pope Francis was aware of the restrictions placed on McCarrick after he was accused of sleeping with seminarians.
Last year, the pontiff took away McCarrick’s rank of cardinal and banned him from ministry in the wake of a separate allegation that McCarrick abused a minor decades before.
In one August 2008 message to Italian Archbishop Pietro Sambi, then the pope’s representative in the U.S., McCarrick said he was “ready to accept the Holy Father’s will in my regard.” He was referring a request from Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re that McCarrick cancel his speaking engagements and move to a monastery. He contested the latter, suggesting that his sudden departure would cause “publicity,” which he said was “precisely what Cardinal Re is hoping to avoid.”
The documents are the latest salvo in what at least one expert described as an internal “fight” over what happened in Washington, with a bevy of leaks, letters and reports painting an increasingly convoluted picture of who knew what, and when. It also puts additional pressure on Pope Francis, whose papacy has come under fire after the resurgence of the Catholic sex abuse scandal over the past year and a half.
According to news first reported Tuesday (May 28) by the website Crux and by CBS News, Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, a priest in Newark, N.J., who previously served as McCarrick’s secretary, revealed the letters and emails he said McCarrick wrote from 2008-2017. McCarrick served as Washington’s archbishop from 2001-2006.
The correspondence provided by Figueiredo, who also served as McCarrick’s “go-between” and aide during trips to Rome for years, includes McCarrick fervently denying some of the allegations against him.
“I have never had sexual relations with anyone,” McCarrick allegedly wrote in one letter to a senior Vatican official. McCarrick did, however, acknowledge that he shared his bed with seminarians, an act he called “an unfortunate lack of judgment.”
“As the problems of sexual abuse began to surface, I realized this was imprudent and stupid and it stopped,” he wrote.
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