A former top Vatican official accused Pope Francis of having known of allegations of sex abuse and called on the pontiff to resign. Picture: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

Dublin/Boston - A former top Vatican official accused Pope Francis of having known of allegations of sex abuse by a prominent US cardinal for five years before accepting his resignation last month and he called on the pontiff to resign.

In a detailed 11-page statement given to conservative Roman Catholic media outlets during the Pope's visit to Ireland, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano also accused a long list of current and past Vatican officials and US Church officials of covering up the McCarrick case.

"Pope Francis has repeatedly asked for total transparency in the Church," wrote Vigano, who has been critical of the pope before.

"In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church, he must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance, Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them," he said.

Vigano said he had told Francis in June 2013, just after he was elected pope by his fellow cardinals, about the accusations against McCarrick.

Vatican officials declined immediate comment on Sunday on the statement, which was published by the National Catholic Register and several other media outlets in the United States and Italy.

Vigano, the papal ambassador in Washington from 2011 to 2016, said he had informed top Vatican officials as early as 2006 that McCarrick was suspected of abusing adult seminarians while he was a bishop in two New Jersey dioceses between 1981 and 2001. He said he never received a response to his 2006 memo.

RESIGNATION

McCarrick in July became the first Cardinal in living memory to resign his position in the Church leadership after a review concluded that claims he had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy were credible.

He was one of the highest-ranking church officials accused of sex abuse in a scandal that has rocked the 1.2 billion-member faith since reports of priests abusing children and bishops covering up for them were reported by the Boston Globe in 2002.

Since then patterns of widespread abuse of children have been reported across the United States and Europe, in Chile and Australia, undercutting the Church's moral authority and taking a toll on its membership and coffers

McCarrick, 88, has said he had no recollection of alleged abuse of the minor but has not commented on widespread media reports that he would force adult men studying for the priesthood to sleep with him at a beach house in New Jersey.

Vigano's statement railed against "homosexual networks present in the Church" -- the word "homosexual" appears 18 times, while the word "child" appears only twice, in both cases in the titles of Church documents Vigano sites.

Francis asked for forgiveness on Sunday during his highly charged visit to Ireland for the "scandal and betrayal" felt by victims of sexual exploitation by Catholic clergy. On Saturday he said the corruption and cover-up of abuse amounted to human excrement, according to victims.