Cardinal Marc Ouellet's letter was issued Sunday, a day after Francis authorized a "thorough study" of all Vatican archives into how McCarrick rose through church ranks despite allegations he sexually preyed on seminarians and young priests. But Ouellet said he couldn't believe Vigano had arrived at such a "monstrous" conclusion, given that Francis had nothing to do with McCarrick's career rise.
Regarding Vigano, he said "in response to your unjust and unjustified attack, I conclude that the accusation is a political frame job without a real foundation meant to incriminate the pope and I repeat, that it has profoundly wounded the communion of the Church".
Ouellet did confirm for the first time that McCarrick, now 88, had been subject to some form of disciplinary measures given uncorroborated "rumors" of misconduct in his past.
The letter, addressed to Vigano but identified as an open letter to the faithful, marked an extraordinary end to the official Vatican silence about Vigano's claims.
The scandal has created a crisis in confidence in the US hierarchy because it was apparently an open secret that McCarrick, now 88, would invite seminarians to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed. But it wasn't until a year ago that it was informed of an accusation that he had molested a minor - a far more grave canonical crime than merely sleeping with adult seminarians.
McCarrick has said he had no recollection of alleged abuse of the minor, but has not commented on the allegations of misconduct with the seminarians, which allegedly took place mostly at a beach house in New Jersey when he was a bishop in that state.
McCarrick, 88, resigned from the College of Cardinals in July after he was accused of molesting a 16-year-old altar boy while serving at the Archdiocese of NY in the 1970s. Another man later said McCarrick molested him when he was a young teen and other men have said they were harassed by McCarrick when they were adult seminarians and priests.
This is the first response from the Vatican following Viganò's 11-page letter, calling out "two dozen Vatican and USA church officials of covering up for McCarrick since 2000, and demanded Francis resign for his role in the scandal", according to AP News.
Vigano, who served as the papal ambassador in the United States from 2011 to 2016 under Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, made his charges in an 11-page letter released August 25.
He said the sanctions included a prohibition from traveling or lecturing for the church or celebrating Mass publicly.
McCarrick had been asked by his predecessor, Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, to avoid public appearances and stay out of the spotlight, Ouellet said.
Archbishop Vigano's letters, he said, "inflict a very painful wound" on the church, "which you claim to serve better, aggravating divisions and the bewilderment of the people of God!"
"Imagine the enormous quantity of verbal and written information he received that day regarding many people and situations", the cardinal wrote.
But Ouellet, the head of the Vatican's bishop's office, said on Sunday that a review of his files showed there were no documents about any sanctions ever imposed on McCarrick by former popes and that it was "false" to suggest Francis had annulled any such measures.
But Ouellet acknowledged that he had told Vigano that McCarrick should adhere to "certain conditions and restrictions because of rumors regarding his past behavior". "The reason is that back then, unlike today, there was not sufficient proof of his alleged culpability".
"I strongly doubt that McCarrick concerned him to the degree you'd like to think, given he was an 82-year-old emeritus archbishop who had been out of a job for seven years", Ouellet wrote.