US cardinals defend themselves over cover-up storm

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano (L), a former Vatican envoy to the United States, says he told Pope Francis of sex abuse allegations against prominent US cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2013

US cardinals defended themselves Monday against accusations of a Catholic Church cover-up on sex abuse detailed by a conservative bishop who has called on Pope Francis to resign.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, a progressive, expressed "shock, sadness and consternation" at the wide-ranging allegations, which he said "cannot be understood as contributing to the healing of survivors of sexual abuse."

"Together with Pope Francis, we are confident that scrutiny of the claims of the former nuncio will help to establish the truth," Tobin said.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former Vatican envoy to the United States, said Saturday he had told Francis of the allegations against prominent US cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2013.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington -- who himself faces calls to resign for covering up abuse while formerly bishop of Pittsburgh -- denied any knowledge that his predecessor had been either sanctioned or accused of abuse.

"During his entire tenure as archbishop of Washington no one has come forward to say to him, 'Cardinal McCarrick abused me' or made any other like claim," said a statement from his archdiocese.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the questions raised by Vigano "deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence."

DiNardo said he was "eager" to meet the pope "to earn his support for our plan of action" that would make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier, and improve procedures for resolving complaints against bishops.

Vigano, who was a papal nuncio in Washington between 2011 and 2016, claimed Francis ignored his warnings about McCarrick and lifted allegedly previously imposed canonical sanctions.

In July, the pontiff accepted the resignation of McCarrick, now 88. He has been accused of "gravely immoral" behavior with seminarians and priests.

Vigano's claims have raised speculation of a campaign against the pontiff by conservatives in the Church.

The United States is home to the fourth-largest Catholic population in the world, after Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines.