Pope Francis meets top US cardinal in shadow of abuse scandal

Pope Francis talks as he meets youth and the Synod Fathers at the Pope Paul VI hall in Vatican

However, because they were only rumors and not proof, then-Pope Benedict XVI never imposed formal sanctions on the retired Washington prelate, which means Pope Francis never lifted them, Cardinal Ouellet wrote October 7 in an open letter to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Vatican nuncio to the United States. But Ouellet said the "exhortation" to live a discreet life of prayer stopped short of binding canonical sanctions, precisely because the rumors lacked proof.

The letter was reportedly approved by the Holy See and came one day after the Vatican issued a release of its own saying Pope Francis had ordered a thorough probe be made into the McCarrick case.

Before the meeting, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston responded to additional steps the Pope is taking to address the sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church.

The McCarrick scandal has thrown the U.S. and Vatican hierarchy into turmoil, given it was apparently an open secret in some U.S. church circles that he would invite seminarians to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed. Two men received settlements starting in 2005 from two New Jersey dioceses after they alleged McCarrick sexually molested or harassed them.

The Vatican was informed about the seminarian complaints as far back as 2000. But it wasn't until a year ago that it was informed of an accusation that he had molested a minor - a far more grave canonical crime than merely sleeping with adult seminarians.

Francis accepted McCarrick's resignation as a cardinal in July after a US church investigation determined that an allegation that he groped a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible.

Pope Francis met the president of the USA bishops' conference Monday as his supporters closed ranks over the pontiff's handling of allegations of sexual misconduct by a US cardinal.

The first formal sanctions on Archbishop McCarrick were imposed by Pope Francis in June after an investigation found credible allegations of the sexual abuse of minors.

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He said the sanctions included a prohibition from traveling or lecturing for the church or celebrating Mass publicly.

7 statement was a response to the Vatican's announcement that it would review its files pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Archbishop McCarrick, who has been accused in recent months of serially sexually abusing two teenage boys, and of sexually coercing and assaulting priests and seminarians during decades of ministry as a bishop. In a document in April on holiness in the modern world, Francis mentioned the devil more than a dozen times.

Archbishop Vigano later explained that Pope Benedict issued the sanctions "privately" perhaps "due to the fact that he (Archbishop McCarrick) was already retired, maybe due to the fact that he (Pope Benedict) was thinking he was ready to obey".

"I imagine the enormous quantity of verbal and written information that he would have gathered on that occasion about many persons and situations".

Cardinal Ouellet said in all his meetings with Francis about bishop nominations, he never heard him refer once to McCarrick as a trusted counsellor.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet said Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano's claims were false and "blasphemous", and demanded that he repent. I understand that bitterness and delusions have been a part of your journey in service to the Holy See, but you can not conclude your priestly life in this way, in open and scandalous rebellion, which is inflicting a very painful wound on the Bride of Christ, whom you claim to serve better, thus aggravating the division and confusion in the People of God!

And he urged Vigano: "Come out of your hiding place, repent for your revolt and return to better sentiments toward the Holy Father".

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