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Pope Francis prays at St. Mary's Cathedral in Dublin. Photo: Stefano Rellandini/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis spent much of his visit to Ireland over the weekend seeking forgiveness — for those guilty of “abuses of power” and “sexual abuses,” and for “some members of the hierarchy” who knew of the abuses and did nothing.

Yes, but: The Vatican’s former ambassador to Washington claims the pope falls into that second category.

  • Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò writes in a stunning 11-page letter that he told Francis in 2013 that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had been sanctioned by Pope Benedict XVI over numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, but Francis nonetheless rehabilitated McCarrick. McCarrick resigned last week, the first cardinal to do so in 90 years. He maintains his innocence.
  • Asked about the allegation by reporters on Sunday, Francis wouldn’t confirm or deny it, saying: “I will not say a single word on this. I think this statement speaks for itself, and you have the sufficient journalistic capacity to draw conclusions.”

Responses to the letter have varied widely, as the Wall Street Journal notes in a piece headlined: “Pope Faces Crisis of Credibility Over Coverup Accusations.”

  • Rev. Robert Imbelli of Boston College told the Journal: “The pope leaves it to journalists in their professional competence to evaluate the truth….Clearly, their work would be facilitated by the release of relevant documents.”
  • Massimo Faggioli of Villanova University tells Slate’s Isaac Chotinerthat Viganò has made unsubstantiated claims in the past, and seems to be out to settle scores.

The backdrop: Francis has previously sought forgiveness for his handling of a major sex abuse scandal in Chile. Confidence in his ability to handle such scandals is falling among U.S. Catholics, per Pew.

The bigger picture: Sex abuse scandals are eroding trust in an institution already struggling with declining membership in nearly every country across Europe and the Americas.

  • A Pew survey found that, as of 2015, while 32% of Americans were raised Catholic, just 21% remained so — more than double the drop-off among Protestants. U.S. Catholics are also older, on average, than members of other major religions.
  • It’s not just that people are becoming less religious. In Brazil, for example, Protestantism has grown rapidly as Catholicism has become less dominant.
  • Membership in the Church has held steady at around 18% of the global population for decades, according to Vatican data, with growth in Africa making up for declines elsewhere.

Consider the case in Ireland, though: The last papal visit was in 1979, when the Church dominated many aspects of Irish life. One-third of the country's entire population turned up to hear John Paul II speak. This time, one attendee told NPR she had decided not to tell acquaintances she was going: "It wasn't a popular thing to say."

Go deeper

Broncos and 49ers the latest NFL teams impacted by coronavirus crisis

From left, Denver Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel during an August training session at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, Colorado. Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the NFL season into chaos, with the Denver Broncos' quarterbacks sidelined, the San Francisco 49ers left without a home or practice ground and much of the Baltimore Ravens team unavailable, per AP.

Driving the news: The Broncos confirmed in a statement Saturday night that quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were identified as "high-risk COVID-19 close contacts" and will follow the NFL's mandatory five-day quarantine, making them ineligible for Sunday's game against New Orleans.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: McConnell temporarily halts in-person lunches for GOP caucus.
  3. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in DecemberAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  4. Education: U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists.
  5. Cities: Surge in cases forces San Francisco to impose curfew — Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order, limits gatherings.
  6. Sports: NFL bans in-person team activities Monday, Tuesday due to COVID-19 surge — NBA announces new coronavirus protocols.
  7. World: London police arrest more than 150 during anti-lockdown protests — Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.

Tony Hsieh, longtime Zappos CEO, dies at 46

Tony Hsieh. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic

Tony Hsieh, the longtime ex-chief executive of Zappos, died on Friday after being injured in a house fire, his lawyer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was 46.

The big picture: Hsieh was known for his unique approach to management, and following the 2008 recession his ongoing investment and efforts to revitalize the downtown Las Vegas area.