A former papal representative to the U.S. has written an open letter to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick that urges the archbishop to repent publicly of the sexual abuse and misconduct of which he stands accused.
“You, paradoxically, have at your disposal an immense offer of great hope for you from the Lord Jesus; you are in a position to do great good for the Church. In fact, you are now in a position to do something that has become more important for the Church than all of the good things you did for her throughout your entire life,” wrote Archbishop Carlo Vigano in a Jan. 13 letter to McCarrick.
“A public repentance on your part would bring a significant measure of healing to a gravely wounded and suffering Church. Are you willing to offer her that gift? Christ died for us all when we were still sinners (Rom. 5: 8). He only asks that we respond by repenting and doing the good that we are given to do.”
McCarrick, 88, has been accused in recent months of sexually abusing at least two adolescent boys, and of engaging for decades in coercive sexual behavior toward priests and seminarians. The allegations were first made public in June 2018, when the Archdiocese of New York reported that it deemed credible an allegation that McCarrick sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s, while serving as a New York priest.
In July 2018, Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals.
Vigano’s letter noted that McCarrick is subject to an administrative canonical process overseen by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A verdict is expected shortly from that process. If he is found guilty, McCarrick is expected to be dismissed from the clerical state.
“No matter what decision the supreme authority of the Church takes in your case, what really matters and what has saddened those who love you and pray for you is the fact that throughout these months you haven’t given any sign of repentance.”
“I am among those who are praying for your conversion, that you may repent and ask pardon of your victims and the Church,” Vigano wrote.
The letter, issued on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, is the most recent in a string of letters Vigano has issued publicly in recent months, beginning with a “testimony” the archbishop published on Aug. 25, 2018. That letter alleged that McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct had been known to some Vatican officials for years, eventually leading to a restriction on the archbishop’s ministry by Pope Benedict XVI in the late 2000s, and a subsequent restoration of McCarrick’s place as a papal advisor by Pope Francis.
Vigano’s August “testimony” set off a flurry of debate, especially as numerous Vatican and U.S. Church officials weighed in on the veracity of the archbishop’s charges. Amid that debate, Vigano issued additional letters, as did other ecclesial officials, including Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, who in October 2018 accused Vigano of sowing confusion and division in the Church. Vigano responded to that charge by arguing that he was acting for the good of the Church.
Since they first emerged, Pope Francis has maintained that he will not respond to the charges of the Vigano letters, and instead has encouraged journalists to investigate their allegations.
To date, some aspects of Vigano’s testimonial seem to have been verified, while other aspects remain controversial or unproven, and some have proven to have been exaggerated, overstated, or unlikely.
Vigano’s most recent letter, however, differs from his recent writings, in that it focuses entirely on spiritual affairs, and is directed at McCarrick, who maintains his innocence, and is now living in a Franciscan friary in Kansas.
“I implore you, repent publicly of your sins, so as to make the Church rejoice and present yourself before the tribunal of Our Lord cleansed by His blood. Please, do not make His sacrifice on the cross void for you. Christ, Our Good Lord, continues to love you. Put your entire trust in His Sacred Heart. And pray to Mary, as I and many others are doing, asking her to intercede for the salvation of your soul,” Vigano concluded.
“Time is running out, but you can confess and repent of your sins, crimes and sacrileges, and do so publicly, since they have themselves become public. Your eternal salvation is at stake.”