Former Vatican ambassador claims Popes Francis, Benedict knew of allegations against former archbishop of Washington
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A former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. has accused Popes Francis and Benedict XVI of knowing about sexual misconduct allegations against the former archbishop of Washington, D.C.

In an 11-page letter, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano says that the popes and other top church officials knew about allegations against former D.C. archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick years before McCarrick was removed from public ministry this summer.

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Vigano, who confirmed to The Washington Post that he wrote the letter but declined to comment further, is calling for the pope to step down.

In the letter, first published by conservative Catholic news outlets National Catholic Register and LifeSite News, Vigano claims that he told Francis in 2013 about “a dossier this thick” containing information about McCarrick’s alleged misconduct toward young priests and seminarians.

McCarrick, a prominent figure in the U.S. Catholic Church, was removed from public ministry earlier this summer after church officials said allegations that he sexually abused a teenager were “credible.”

Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation last month.

Vigano also says he told Francis about Benedict’s knowledge of the situation, and that Benedict had ordered McCarrick to “withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.”

“The Pope did not make the slightest comment about those very grave words of mine and did not show any expression of surprise on his face, as if he had already known the matter for some time, and he immediately changed the subject,” Vigano claims.

Other religious leaders said previously that concerns about McCarrick had been communicated to the Vatican, but it was unclear whether Francis was aware of them.

This is also the first time that Benedict’s reported order to McCarrick to withdraw from public life has been reported, according to the Post.

Vigano, who served as the Holy See’s apostolic nuncio from 2011-2016, said in his letter that he learned of Benedict’s order to McCarrick from Italian cleric Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.

Vigano, a critic of Francis, was removed from his post in 2016 for his involvement in the conservative anti-gay marriage fight in the U.S., after arranging a meeting between Francis and Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to sign same-sex marriage licenses.

The report of Vigano’s letter comes as Francis and the Catholic Church are under renewed scrutiny following a Pennsylvania grand jury’s report that found evidence of decades of abuse by hundreds of “predator priests” in the state.

Francis wrote an open letter last week condemning the “atrocities” in the report and vowing to prevent future abuses.

"Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient," he wrote.

--This report was updated at 10:16 a.m.