ROME — One of Pope Francis' leading critics said Thursday he was "deeply shaken" by accusations of a sex abuse cover-up against the pontiff and wants an investigation, but is still pressing Francis to respond to an earlier set of questions about his views on marriage.
American Cardinal Raymond Burke denied Thursday he had any prior knowledge of the accusation penned by the former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. The two are like-minded conservatives and have shared the podium at traditionalist conferences before.
Burke said he read Vigano's 11-page accusation that Francis was complicit in a nearly two-decade cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick when it was published Aug. 26. He said he was "deeply shaken" by what he read, and has called for an investigation.
But he said more importantly, Francis needs to respond to a set of questions that he and three other conservative cardinals posed over a year ago about Francis' opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics — questions he said are at the heart of the Christian faith.
Burke spoke at a conference Thursday marking the first anniversary of the death of one of the questions' co-authors, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, the retired archbishop of Bologna.
Burke, Caffarra and two others formally asked Francis to clarify certain questions, or "dubia," raised by his 2016 document "The Joy of Love," in which he seemed to open the door to letting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion.
Francis hasn't responded to them.
Burke said he shared Caffarra's "profound sadness" over Francis' "silence" and wondered if the pain Caffarra felt contributed to his death.
"The dubia must have a response sooner or later," Burke said. "It's a simple response: Yes or no. That's all. It's not complicated."
Conservatives have voiced concern that Francis' opening has sown confusion among the faithful about the church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.
Many Catholic faithful, including the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have also demanded answers to Vigano's accusations.
Francis has said he "won't say a word" about Vigano's claims and this week extolled the value of "silence and prayer" when facing those who seek to create scandal and division.