Former top Vatican official says pope should resign over abuse crisis

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Sunday he would not respond to a former top Vatican official who accused him of having known for years of allegations of sex abuse by a prominent U.S. cardinal, calling on the pontiff to resign in an unprecedented broadside against the pope by a Church insider.

Francis, speaking to reporters on the plane returning from a trip to Dublin, said dismissively that a statement containing the accusations "speaks for itself."

In a detailed 11-page bombshell statement given to conservative Roman Catholic media outlets during the pope's visit to Ireland, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accused a long list of current and past Vatican and U.S. Church officials of covering up the case of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned last month in disgrace.

In remarkably blunt language, Vigano said alleged cover-ups in the Church were making it look like "a conspiracy of silence not so dissimilar from the one that prevails in the mafia."

"Pope Francis has repeatedly asked for total transparency in the Church," wrote Vigano, who has criticized the pope before.

34 PHOTOS
Ireland prepares for Pope Francis
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Ireland prepares for Pope Francis
Redemptoristine nuns Sister Petra Maria (R) and Sister Ivana prepare communion wafers during production of altar breads ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Ireland, at the Monastery of St Alphonsus in Dublin, Ireland August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Redemptoristine nun Sister Petra Maria prepares uncut sheets of communion wafers during production of altar breads ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Ireland, at the Monastery of St Alphonsus in Dublin, Ireland August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Sister Angela Finegan looks out of the church window at St Mary's Abbey, a Cistercian monastery that is an enclosed contemplative order of nuns in Glencairn, Ireland, August 18, 2018. "I am so excited about the day, to be in the presence of this good and holy leader of our Church (Pope Francis) and surrounded by people of faith and lovers of God. It will be a great joy and blessing. Especially in the days when the presence of God and the life of the Church are hidden in our fast-paced society," said Sister Angela. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Redemptoristine nuns Sister Petra Maria (R) and Sister Ivana prepare communion wafers during production of altar breads ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Ireland, at the Monastery of St Alphonsus in Dublin, Ireland August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Pilgrims ascend and descend Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Names spelled out in stones are laid out on the side of Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Sister Angela Finegan mops the church floor at St Mary's Abbey, a Cistercian monastery that is an enclosed contemplative order of nuns in Glencairn, Ireland, August 18, 2018. "I am so excited about the day, to be in the presence of this good and holy leader of our Church (Pope Francis) and surrounded by people of faith and lovers of God. It will be a great joy and blessing. Especially in the days when the presence of God and the life of the Church are hidden in our fast-paced society," said Sister Angela. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Sister Marie Fahy reads at her desk in St Mary's Abbey, a Cistercian monastery that is an enclosed contemplative order of nuns in Glencairn, Ireland, August 18, 2018. "The Pope is the earthly head of the Church, the Vicar of Christ. His visit means that he wants to support, guide and encourage the Irish Church. I believe his message will be one of inspiration, direction and advice for the people of God in Ireland," said Sister Marie. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Sister Marie Fahy walks through the farm in St Mary's Abbey, a Cistercian monastery that is an enclosed contemplative order of nuns in Glencairn, Ireland, August 18, 2018. "The Pope is the earthly head of the Church, the Vicar of Christ. His visit means that he wants to support, guide and encourage the Irish Church. I believe his message will be one of inspiration, direction and advice for the people of God in Ireland," said Sister Marie. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A religious grotto that lights up at night and is also a traffic roundabout, stands in the city centre in Dublin, Ireland, August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Brendan O'Connor who lives beside Phoenix Park, sits in his yard in Dublin, Ireland, July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Sister Kathleen carries a pot of tea at St Mary's Abbey, a Cistercian monastery that is an enclosed contemplative order of nuns in Glencairn, Ireland, August 18, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Shopkeeper Bernie Byrne, 74, looks out from his shop at the National Marian Shrine town of Knock, Ireland, July 23, 2018. Byrne's grandfather Dominic was one of at least twenty-two people that claimed to see Mary, Joseph and John the Evangelist hovering near the gable end of the local church in the western Irish village of Knock on a rainy evening in August 1879. "Houses are being painted and streets are being scrubbed... trying to get everything ready for him (Pope Francis), even though it's only a short visit," said Byrne, who like his brother Tom, runs a small shop selling religious goods to the 1.5 million pilgrims that come to Knock each year. "Because he is such a humble man, and a nice man, everybody is dying to have a look at him." REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A souvenir lollipop called a 'Lollipope' is seen in Dublin, Ireland, August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A statue of the Virgin Mary stands in O'Devaney Gardens beside Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland, July 18, 2018. The 1950's complex's statue of Mary is tended to by Joe Towell who lives nearby to O'Devaney Gardens flats. While some locals' cars have been stolen and homes broken into, nobody touches Mary, he says. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Pope Francis bunting decorates a street in the city centre of Dublin, Ireland, August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A statue of Pope Francis stands in a shop window in the National Marian Shrine town of Knock, Ireland, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Women from a haberdashery shop hold up their new Pope Francis Ireland flag in Louth, Ireland, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A statue of the Virgin Mary looks out from a shop at the National Marian Shrine town of Knock, Ireland, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Joe Towell, 68, sits with his mother who lives with him at his home in Dublin, Ireland, July 18, 2018. Excited about the visit of "another extraordinary type of pope", he sees Francis as bridging a generational gap that has opened between the conservative and liberal wings of the church. "He's still preaching the same gospel as they've all been preaching. He's just got a little more understanding of the present way people are feeling," Towell said. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Heart-shaped gravestones of boys who died in a Christian Brothers' industrial school lie in a graveyard in Letterfrack, Ireland, July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
A religious grotto featuring a statue of the Virgin Mary holding a Pope Francis prayer card and several sets of rosary beads stands on the roadside near the county Mayo town of Claremorris, Ireland, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
The stage where Pope Frances will lead Mass for over half a million people is under construction at the Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland, August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Pilgrims attend Mass at the summit of Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A station of the cross is partly hidden by undergrowth at a roadside in the Connemara village of Letterfrack, Ireland, July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A nun stands in front of a scene of the crucifix of Jesus in the Marian Shrine town of Knock, Ireland, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A child cycles past a roadside sign reading 'Jesus I trust in you' near Tuam, Ireland, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Pilgrims attend Mass at the summit of Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Pilgrims ascend and descend Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A young pilgrim reads on Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Pilgrims attend Mass at the summit of Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
A pilgrim descends Croagh Patrick holy mountain barefoot during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
Pilgrims ascend and descend Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
A pilgrim is blessed by the newly ordained Father Gerard Quirke after Mass at the summit of Croagh Patrick holy mountain during an annual Catholic pilgrimage near Lecanvey, Ireland, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne 
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"In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church, his extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church, he must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance, 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," Vigano said.

The statement, which contained no supporting documents, was the latest blow to the credibility of the U.S. Church. Nearly two weeks ago, a grand jury in Pennsylvania released the findings of the largest-ever investigation of sex abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church, finding that 301 priests in the state had sexually abused minors over the past 70 years.

On the plane returning from a trip to Dublin, reporters asked the pope about the statement, which was published by the National Catholic Register and several other conservative media outlets in the United States and Italy.

"I will say sincerely that I must say this, to you (the reporter) and all of you who are interested: Read the document carefully and judge it for yourselves," he said.

"I will not say one word on this. I think the statement speaks for itself and you have sufficient journalistic ability to reach your own conclusions," he said.

19 PHOTOS
Pope arrives in Ireland
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Pope arrives in Ireland
Pope Francis is pictured as he leaves Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Pope Francis leaves Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Pope Francis smiles next to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis is welcomed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis speaks at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis presents a gift to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis speaks during his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis signs a visitors book next to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis arrives at Dublin International Airport, at the start of his two-day visit to Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Pope Francis is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
A monk reacts next to the officer from Ireland's Garda (Police), in Dublin, Ireland August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Pope Francis speaks in St Patricks Hall in Dublin Castle in Dublin on August 25, 2018, during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (R) shows the way to Pope Francis in St Patricks Hall in Dublin Castle in Dublin on August 25, 2018, during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families. - Pope Francis said he shared in the 'shame and pain' of the Catholic Church's 'failure' to deal with years of sexual abuse scandals as he began a historic two-day visit to Ireland on Saturday. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - AUGUST 25: Pope Francis leaves after meeting dignitaries at Dublin Castle on August 25, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. Pope Francis is the 266th Catholic Pope and current sovereign of the Vatican. His visit, the first by a Pope since John Paul II's in 1979, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of Catholics to a series of events in Dublin and Knock. During his visit he will have private meetings with victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - AUGUST 25: Pope Francis leaves after meeting dignitaries at Dublin Castle on August 25, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. Pope Francis is the 266th Catholic Pope and current sovereign of the Vatican. His visit, the first by a Pope since John Paul II's in 1979, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of Catholics to a series of events in Dublin and Knock. During his visit he will have private meetings with victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (L) and Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar walk into St Patricks Hall in Dublin Castle in Dublin on August 25, 2018, during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
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NO REPLY

In his statement, Vigano said he had told Francis in June 2013, just after he was elected pope by his fellow cardinals, about the accusations against McCarrick.

Vigano, the papal envoy in Washington from 2011 to 2016, also said he had informed top Vatican officials as early as 2006 that McCarrick was suspected of abusing adult seminarians while he was a bishop in two New Jersey dioceses between 1981 and 2001. He said he never received a response to his 2006 memo.

He also accused McCarrick's successor as archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, of having been aware of the abuse allegations. Wuerl has said he did not know of them.

In a statement, the Washington Catholic Archdiocese said: "In spite of what Archbishop Vigano’s memo indicates, Cardinal Wuerl did not receive any documentation or information during his time in Washington regarding any actions taken against Archbishop McCarrick."

McCarrick in July became the first cardinal in living memory to resign his position in the Church leadership after a review concluded that claims he had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy were credible.

He was one of the highest-ranking Church officials accused of sex abuse in a scandal that has rocked the 1.2 billion-member faith since reports of priests abusing children and bishops covering up for them were reported by the Boston Globe in 2002.

Since then, patterns of widespread abuse of children have been reported across the United States and Europe, in Chile and Australia, undercutting the Church's moral authority and taking a toll on its membership and coffers

McCarrick, 88, has said he had no recollection of alleged abuse of the minor, but has not commented on widespread media reports that he would force adult men studying for the priesthood to sleep with him at a beach house in New Jersey.

Vigano's statement railed against "homosexual networks present in the Church" - the word "homosexual" appears 18 times, while the word "child" appears only twice, in both cases in the titles of Church documents Vigano cites.

Francis asked for forgiveness on Sunday during his highly charged visit to Ireland for the "scandal and betrayal" felt by victims of sexual exploitation by Catholic clergy. On Saturday, he said the corruption and cover-up of abuse amounted to human excrement, according to victims. (Reporting by Philip Pullella; Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston and Joel Schectman in Washington; Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Cooney)

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