Washington (AFP) - A longtime Vatican dissident broke months of silence Monday to accuse Pope Francis of "blatantly lying" in denying knowledge of the sexual abuse allegations against a now-defrocked American cardinal.
Retired Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano told the Washington Post in a series of emails that Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI must come clean about what they knew of ex-Washington archbishop Theodore McCarrick's alleged decades of abuse.
Vigano said it is "immensely sad" that Francis was "blatantly lying to the whole world to cover up his wicked deeds" in allegedly protecting McCarrick.
Vigano reiterated his earlier claims that he warned Francis in 2013 about McCarrick.
"How could anybody, especially a pope, forget this?" he said, according to the Post.
Vigano, an iconoclastic Catholic conservative who has rocked the Vatican for years with accusations of corruption and abuse at the highest levels, disappeared last August after penning a sweeping 11-page attack on Francis and Benedict over McCarrick.
In that letter, he said he warned church leaders in 2006 about allegations that McCarrick engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct and abuse with male seminarians over a period of decades. The allegations only became public in 2018.
He also wrote of deeply embedded "homosexual networks" that "are strangling the entire church."
Vigano, who is backed by an ultra-conservative US church faction, called for the pope to resign over his alleged silence.
Francis has rejected the criticism, denying he knew of the powerful McCarrick's transgressions.
But the pope has become more vocal in calling for the church to be honest and open about the priest sex scandals.
Vigano, 78, whose 2012 accusations of corruption in the Vatican sparked the "Vatileaks" scandal, would not divulge to the Post where he is staying since he retired from the church.
He said his life "is quite normal," without providing any details.
But he defended his August letter.
"My silence would make me complicit with the abusers, and lead to yet more victims," he said.
"The results of an honest investigation would be disastrous for the current papacy," he added.