VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Monday recommended silence and prayer to deal with those who "only seek scandal," division and destruction in what appeared to be an indirect response to allegations that he had covered up for a U.S. cardinal embroiled in sex abuse scandals.
Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former papal envoy in Washington, stunned the faithful last month by claiming Francis allegedly lifted unconfirmed Vatican sanctions against disgraced U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick and demanding that the pope resign.
"With people lacking good will, with people who only seek scandal, who seek only division, who seek only destruction, even within the family — silence, prayer" is the path to take, Francis said in his homily during morning Mass at the Vatican hotel where he lives.
Hours after Vigano made the claim in a statement given to conservative Catholic news media, Francis had told journalists seeking his response that he "won't say a word" about the sensational claims.
In his homily Monday, Francis indicated that he might be taking his cue from God on whether to speak out or not about Vigano's allegations.
"May the Lord give us the grace to discern when we should speak and when we should stay silent," Francis said. "This applies to every part of life: to work, at home, in society."
Francis also spoke about how Jesus, when confronting the devil, responded with silence. Francis also described the truth as being meek and silent.
Vigano has contended that while Benedict XVI was pope, he had sanctioned McCarrick, including avoiding public life, but that Francis later allegedly lifted the punishment.
During the years that McCarrick was purportedly under sanctions, the cardinal celebrated public Masses and attended public functions, even before Francis became pontiff. Vigano claimed that he told Francis, shortly after he was elected pontiff in 2013, that McCarrick had been given sanctions by Benedict.
Weeks before Vigano went public with his claims, Francis in July yanked McCarrick's cardinal rank after U.S. investigations found sex abuse claims credible. McCarrick has denied wrongdoing.
It was the first time that a prelate had lost his cardinal's rank in a sex abuse scandal, and the move was widely viewed as an indication that Francis was trying to make good on promises to crack down on clerics who either were found to have abused minors or adults, or covered up for priests who did.
After decades of complaints by faithful in the United States and elsewhere that they were sexually abused as minors or adults by priests, or that their abuses were quietly shuffled from parish to parish, the church, including at the Vatican, has been struggling to effectively deal with the problem, including the role of higher-ups in hiding the abuses.
Frances D'Emilio is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio