Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò caused a massive upheaval in the Catholic Church by accusing Pope Francis of a sexual abuse cover-up and calling for his resignation.
Viganò, the former papal ambassador for the Vatican to the United States, wrote a 7,000-word letter published on Aug. 26, according to The New York Times, stating “the Vatican hierarchy was complicit in covering up accusations that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had sexually abused seminarians and that Pope Francis knew about the abuses …. Francis did not punish the cardinal, but instead empowered him to help choose powerful American bishops.”
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigned in July, following Pope Francis suspending him from “any public ministry and direct[ing] him to ‘a life of prayer and penance’ until the accusations of sexual misconduct are examined in a regular canonical trial,” according to USA Today.
Evyn McGraw, senior art and English double major, originally considered converting to Catholicism, but the recent scandals have given her second thoughts. “It’s ironic that all this would happen at the same time I’m considering accepting church authority,” McGraw said.
Ottoniel Jimenez Herrera, a Catholic student and sophomore electrical engineering major, has seen how the accusations have impacted the church. “It is actually hard to be sure about the truth and to understand the deep reasons Pope Francis decided not to give a response rectifying the accusations made against him by Archbishop Viganò. The Pope himself might be having a hard time trying to deal with all the recent sexual abuse scandals that have involved members of the Catholic clergy,” Jimenez Herrera said.
The Pope has not commented on Viganò’s letter, rather urging readers “to look into the claims and to come to their own conclusions,” according to The New Republic.
McGraw is unsure how the church should move forward from these accusations. “Pope Francis’ silence definitely makes me wary, but again, I’m not educated enough on the issue to outright condemn him yet,” McGraw said. “I certainly concede the possibility that he’s covering things up, in which case, yes, I would hope he’d resign. Untruth is an evil and harmful thing, especially in someone who ought to be leading people toward truth.”
The rally for the Pope’s resignation by conservative Catholics faces one major obstacle – the canon law has no measures from removing a pope from office. “There are only two circumstances that can lead to him no longer being pope, and one would be his death and then the other would be his free resignation,” Monsignor Jason Gray, a canon lawyer and pastor based in Illinois, said in an interview with CBC Radio-Canada.
The biggest concern for McGraw is Catholicism’s reliance on the pope. “If people tie the truth of Catholicism to the virtue of a single man, then that isn’t Catholicism; it’s a cult of personality. That’s why I haven’t concerned myself much with Pope Francis himself,” McGraw said.
Jimenez Herrera believes that the church desires truth and transparency about the controversy. “We are thus called to pray for the entire Church so that it can be as Christ truly wants it to be: a true and authentic model of faith, hope, and love in Him. Hence, the abuses that actually happen must be addressed, action must be taken, and the victims must be supported by the Catholic community,” Jimenez Herrera said. “In this way, we will fight this sin–which sadly is present in our Church–and strive for authentic holiness. That is the great responsibility in the midst of this ecclesiastical crisis.”