JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 7305
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

  • 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.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.