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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (ChurchMilitant.com) - An Illinois bishop is calling for further inquiry into allegations that Pope Francis covered up former Cdl. Theodore McCarrick's history of sexual predation.
In an interview with Chicago's NBC 5 News on Wednesday, Bp. Thomas Paprocki of Springfield said that, based on the testimony of Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò, former papal nuncio to the United States, Francis' relationship to McCarrick must be examined.
"I think that the key issue we have to focus on here is the safety of children and a safe environment for people in our churches," Paprocki said.
According to Viganò's testimony, Pope Francis has long known that McCarrick is a serial sexual predator; he said Francis ignored McCarrick's crimes and, as pontiff, lifted sanctions imposed on the former Washington, D.C. cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI. Viganò revealed Francis "continued to cover" McCarrick, even making him "his trusted counselor" in selecting bishops for appointment, including homosexualist cardinals Joseph Tobin of Newark and Blase Cupich of Chicago.
The Pontiff's only response so far: "Read the statement carefully and make your own judgment. I will not say a single word on this."
Bishop Paprocki suggested that he has no reason to doubt the veracity of Viganò's statement.
"I don't know why he would be saying these things unless he believed they were true; he was in a position, certainly, to know a lot of the things he's talking about," the Springfield prelate said.
Paprocki also rejected assertions Francis can excuse himself from the crisis through silence.
"Even at the level of the Pope, even if there are issues of sexual abuse, he can't say — and others defending him can't say — 'he's got more important things to do,'" he said.
Paprocki's comment was a thinly veiled slap against Chicago Cdl. Blase Cupich, who told NBC 5 News on Monday, "For the Holy Father to get into each and every one of those aspects in some way is inappropriate."
"The Pope has a bigger agenda," Cupich argued. "He's got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church. We're not going to go down a rabbit hole on this."
Cupich went on to accuse the Pope's critics of racism: "Quite frankly, they also don't like him because he's a Latino." (Jorge Mario Bergoglio is an ethnic Italian.) After being excoriated for his statements, the cardinal responded Wednesday by accusing NBC 5 News of unfairly editing his interview.
Bishop Paprocki joins several other U.S. prelates calling for an investigation into Viganò's allegations, including Cdl. Raymond Burke; San Francisco Abp. Salvatore Cordileone; Phoenix, Arizona Bp. Thomas Olmsted; Madison, Wisconsin Bp. Robert Morlino and Bp. Joseph E. Strickland of Tyler, Texas.