Then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick attends a Mass in Rome April 13, 2018. The retired archbishop of Washington faces a canonical trial on allegations he sexually abused a minor and seminarians some years ago. Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals July 28. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Editorial: Another betrayal

By 
  • August 9, 2018

The soul-crushing case of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick is yet another example of one of God’s shepherds doing the devil’s work in a Church failing still to wash away what Pope Benedict XVI called the filth of clerical sexual abuse.

McCarrick, 88, resigned in shame from the College of Cardinals amid “credible and substantial” sexual-abuse allegations involving minors and other allegations concerning seminarians and subordinate priests. The sinful conduct, which he has denied, is said to have started soon after his ordination and continued right through his years as a bishop. But almost as troubling as the allegations behind the disgraced American cardinal’s resignation are reports that his behaviour had become widely known but roundly ignored by the Church hierarchy. 

A recent New York Times investigation revealed that in 2005 and 2007, when McCarrick was a cardinal, two New Jersey dioceses paid settlements related to abuse of seminarians. In the 1990s, according to The  Times, then-Bishop McCarrick’s inappropriate conduct with seminarians was reported to some American bishops and relayed as high as the Vatican. Yet in 2001 McCarrick was installed as Archbishop of Washington and made a cardinal, where he rose to become a leading Church figure.

To his credit, Pope Francis reacted to the growing scandal by accepting McCarrick’s resignation and ordering him into a life of prayer and penance until he faces a canonical trial at a future date. But waiting for that verdict should not delay an investigation into how an alleged abuser can rise through the clerical ranks to become a bishop and then a cardinal. 

Catholics are sickened each time another case of abuse is revealed, but they are disgusted with the cover-ups, angry with the deception and frustrated with a Church hierarchy that seems unable or, worse, uncommitted to washing away the fifth of clerical sexual abuse.

Should the canonical trial find McCarrick guilty, in addition to any other punishment, he should be laicized, expelled entirely from the clergy. Surely that is what zero tolerance means. But that cannot be the end of the matter. 

The  Vatican has a responsibility to investigate — through an independent third party — any bishops and cardinals who, through wilful disregard of many serious allegations, failed McCarrick’s victims and failed the Catholic faithful as a whole. To keep his dirty secret for all these years, to enable McCarrick with silence, to watch him rise to prominence in the Church, is an unconscionable betrayal of duty. 

As others have written, McCarrick’s resignation is not an indictment of just one person. It is a shaming of a Church hierarchy whose apparent inaction makes it a complicit party in this nauseating scandal. Those who fuelled this scandal by their silence must also be called to account.

Comments (3)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Sincere thanks to the editor for a fine editorial.

The standard response to those who approached diocesan offices with concerns about physical and verbal abuse has been: control, obfuscation and denial.

The emperor has clothes.

It is past...

Sincere thanks to the editor for a fine editorial.

The standard response to those who approached diocesan offices with concerns about physical and verbal abuse has been: control, obfuscation and denial.

The emperor has clothes.

It is past time for married and women priests.

Let calls for change be heard before the last of the faithful give up and leave.

Now.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Thank you for a fine editorial.

Sadly, those two generations who quietly left over the years are unlikely to return.
That majority of kind, generous, subservient priests is being betrayed by a wayward, and indifferent 10% minority.

A...

Thank you for a fine editorial.

Sadly, those two generations who quietly left over the years are unlikely to return.
That majority of kind, generous, subservient priests is being betrayed by a wayward, and indifferent 10% minority.

A hierarchical hauteur compounds this problem.
We can only hope for a major shake-up from Francis.

Please. Please. It is past time for married and women priests.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

We are long past the moment of permitting "self governance" by regional "fiefdoms". Management needs to be monitored.

The real issue is the "boys club" image. Regional Management, afraid of criticism, protects the "sinner clergyman", but fails...

We are long past the moment of permitting "self governance" by regional "fiefdoms". Management needs to be monitored.

The real issue is the "boys club" image. Regional Management, afraid of criticism, protects the "sinner clergyman", but fails to demonstrate it is putting effort into protecting the child.

Time after time failure to come to the rescue of children on a timely basis, demonstrates a commitment to brush these poor victims aside by playing "hide the idiot" and protecting the "boys club". It demonstrates the management is about the "heart of politicians", not the "heart of Jesus".

The real issue: demonstrate how the management is protecting the children, not just pay "lip service" and hoping it will go away.

An apostasy has formed because people start to see "hearts of politicians" and secular behavior, not the "heart of Christ" by people who call themselves "Christ's representatives". 1/2 of the "active Catholics" no longer come to Mass. Now only 25% or less celebrate, even though over 1 Billion people still self identify as being Catholic (followers of Jesus).

Here's a suggestion:

The management is a hierarchical organization which is decentralized under the executive rule of the Cardinals and Archbishops. It is apparent that the concept of large organization "internal operational control" management needs to be implemented.

Set strategy to

(1) demonstrate the management protects children (not just words). FYI, the Pope has indicated he is committed to this.
(2) the Church clerics reach out to the community at large to help all come to Christ (evangelize) and is moving out of "insular behavior" of just focusing on the Remanent,
(3) promote making the Church an interesting place to get involved in with programs and projects that bring alive the "heart of Jesus" for the community.

Set up an "audit committee" complete with internal auditors (mix of clerics AND NON clerics) to routinely audit world wide parishes as to their protection of children, their activities to promote Jesus and congregational involvement in communities as well as financial management.

The auditors should report to the audit committee of the Cardinals/Archbishops and the Pope on the strength and weakness of each parishes failure to uphold standards of protection, standards of bringing Jesus to the community at large, standards of congregational involvement to enhance the average Catholic's experience, and proper fiscal management standards. The auditors should interview teachers and parents (on a basis NOT disclosed to the executive), to see if there are any rumors of abuse in the parish.

A report should be made to the Council of Bishops / etc, annually on the success and suggestions for improvement of the parishes.

The standards should be set with involvement of successful parish communities, not just the religious centered in the Vatican.. This is to provide input on how to build better churches that are not so insular, more about "rules compliance and adherence to the party line" than reflecting the "heart of Jesus".

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