Pope Orders ‘Thorough Study’ of Vatican Documents in Abuse Case

October 7, 2018 Updated: October 7, 2018

VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis has ordered a “thorough study” of all documents in Holy See offices concerning former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Vatican said in its first response to accusations that have shaken the Catholic Church.

In a statement on on Oct. 6, the Vatican appeared to be committing itself to examine the paper trail on the McCarrick case.

The latest crisis began in August when Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States, said in a bombshell document that the pope knew for years about allegations of sexual misconduct by McCarrick with adult male seminarians but did nothing about it.

In July, McCarrick became the first cardinal to resign in almost 100 years after U.S. Church officials said claims made in a separate investigation that he had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy almost 50 years ago were credible and substantiated.

The Vatican statement said information already known about McCarrick in the United States would be combined with a “a further thorough study of the entire documentation” in Vatican archives “in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.”

But the Vatican statement also appeared to suggest that wrong decisions and mistakes may have been made regarding McCarrick in the past.

“The Holy See is conscious that, from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances, it may emerge that choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues,” the statement said, without elaborating.

Vigano alleged that former Pope Benedict, who resigned in 2013, had placed sanctions on McCarrick because of his alleged sexual misconduct with adult males and had ordered him to retire to a life of prayer and penitence and refrain from public ministry.

Vigano claimed that Francis had lifted the sanctions, effectively rehabilitating McCarrick.

By Philip Pullella