ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - A former papal nuncio is defending himself in the face of accusations impugning his integrity.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former apostolic nuncio to the United States, who published explosive testimony Sunday alleging Pope Francis covered for homosexual predator Abp. Theodore McCarrick, issued a two-page statement Monday responding to charges that he thwarted a sex abuse investigation in 2015.
"These accusations — alleging that I ordered the two Auxiliary Bishops of Minneapolis to close the investigation into the life of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt — are false," he wrote.
Nienstedt was forced to resign from his role as head of the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2015 after the Ramsey County Attorney's Office filed criminal charges against the archdiocese for the way it handled priestly sex abuse. It was the first criminal prosecution of a Catholic archdiocese in U.S. history.
Reports surfaced in 2016 claiming Viganò had shut down the investigation and had ordered that a document incriminating Nienstedt be destroyed.
"I never told anyone that Greene Espel should stop the inquiry, and I never ordered any document to be destroyed," Viganò insists in Monday's statement. "Any statement to the contrary is false."
On the same day the reports on Viganò's alleged conduct were released, Pope Francis ordered that an investigation be opened into Vigano.
"Mr. Jeffrey Lena — an American lawyer working for the Holy See — went to the Congregation for Bishops where he found documents proving that my conduct had been absolutely correct," Viganò explained in his statement. "Mr. Lena handed a written report exonerating me to the Holy Father."
"In spite of this, the Vatican Press Office did not deem it necessary to release a statement refuting the New York Times article," Viganò added.
Viganò has come under fire by critics attempting to discredit him after he published an 11-page statement testifying that Pope Francis was aware of McCarrick's homosexual predation but "continued to cover him," even making him "his trusted counselor" in naming bishops for appointment, including Cdl. Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey (McCarrick's former diocese) and Cdl. Blase Cupich of Chicago, Illinois.
"In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church, he [Pope Francis] must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance, Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them," Viganò wrote.
Since then, leftist authors have mobilized against Viganò, impugning his motives and attacking his credibility, with Michael Sean Winters of The National Catholic Reporter — a newspaper condemned by the Church — even calling Viganò's supporters "drunken yahoos" taking part in a "putsch" against Pope Francis.
The pope himself has refused to comment on the grave allegations, telling the press on the papal plane back from Ireland Sunday to make up their own minds on the matter.