The Vatican‘s retired ambassador to the United States has penned an 11-page letter accusing senior officials of promoting disgraced former Archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick to Cardinal – despite knowing as early as 2000 that he regularly invited seminarians into his bed.

The letter, an extraordinary ‘j‘accuse‘ from a one-time Holy See diplomat, also accuses Pope Francis of having initially rehabilitated McCarrick despite being informed of his penchant for young seminarians in 2013, soon after he was elected Pope.

The ‘National Catholic Register‘ published the letter attributed to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò yesterday. Dr Viganò (77), a conservative whose hard-line anti-gay views are well known, also urged the reformist Pope to resign over the issue. He and the Pope have long been on opposite ideological sides.

The Vatican didn‘t immediately comment on the letter or confirm its authenticity.

Dr Viganò accused the former Vatican secretaries of state under the previous two Popes of having ignored detailed denunciations against McCarrick for years. He said Pope Benedict eventually sanctioned McCarrick in 2009 or 2010 to a lifetime of penance and prayer, but Pope Francis later rehabilitated him.

Pope Francis accepted McCarrick‘s resignation as Cardinal last month, after a US church investigation determined that an accusation he had sexually abused a minor was credible.

Another man has come forward saying McCarrick began molesting him starting when he was 11, and several former seminarians have said McCarrick abused and harassed them.

The accusations have led to a crisis in confidence in the US hierarchy, because it was apparently an open secret that McCarrick regularly invited seminarians to his New Jersey beach house, and into his bed.

Coupled with the allegations of sex abuse and cover-up in a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report – which found 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children over 70 years – the scandal has led to calls for heads to roll and a full investigation into who knew what and when about McCarrick.

Dr Viganò apparently sought to answer some of those questions.

His letter identifies by name the Vatican cardinals and archbishops who were informed about the McCarrick affair, an unthinkable exposé for a Vatican diplomat. He said documents backing up his claims are in the archives in Rome.

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Dr Viganò, the Vatican‘s ambassador to the US from 2011-2016, said his two immediate predecessors “did not fail” to inform the Holy See about accusations against McCarrick, starting in 2000.

He said Pope Francis asked him about McCarrick when they met in 2013. Viganò wrote he told Francis: “Holy Father, I don‘t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation of Bishops, there is a dossier this thick about him.

“He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.”

Irish Independent