How could such a fiasco have happened? How could a man who for years used his status as a priest and then his authority as bishop to abuse young men have pursued a remarkable ecclesiastical career, until he became Archbishop of Washington and cardinal? These are the questions that have arisen since the revelation in June 2018 of a sexual abuse case concerning the now ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
→ READ. McCarrick case: how the Vatican did not see the sex crimes of the American cardinal
The publication by the Vatican of a long report Tuesday, November 10, nourished by two years of investigation in its archives and multiple interviews, does not directly answer these questions. Worse, he raises another: why has the Holy See not put a brutal stop to the progress of the ambitious McCarrick? Because what emerges from the report is that from the 1980s, a succession of reports about him reached the Church authorities, never to stop.
In the mid-1980s, While Mgr McCarrick is bishop of Metuchen (New Jersey), several American Catholic officials and the apostolic nuncio receive three anonymous letters. The author is a woman from the New York City area who has regularly welcomed the bishop into her family. According to the testimony of this woman and her sons, collected by Vatican investigators, the bishop was guilty of touching children. If she doesn’t use the words ” predators ” or ” pedophile She says that McCarrick “Did a massage on the inside of the thighs” of his children.
“McCarrick’s Potential Faults”
Despite this first alert, Bishop McCarrick was promoted to Bishop of Newark in 1986. Three years later, his successor in Metuchen, Bishop Edward Hugues, received the testimony of a seminarian informing him that McCarrick had visited his room regularly. .
In the 1990s, the Vatican receives the report from another priest, while Bishop Hugues, In 1994, is aware of a testimony from a third priest who had an affair with McCarrick. Despite this succession, to say the least suspicious, he will not transmit this information to the Vatican before 2000.
During the same period of the 1990s, no less than six anonymous letters were sent to members of the American Episcopal Conference, as well as to the nuncio. Violent, these letters, notably castigate ” Bishop Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct “. They also mention acts ” which took place in the episcopal residences of Newark and Metuchen “.
→ PORTRAIT. Who is the former American cardinal Theodore McCarrick, accused of sexual abuse?
These letters, as well as “ additional information related to potential misconduct by McCarrick »Received by Cardinal O’Connor, then Archbishop of New York, worried the Vatican within the framework of the visit to the United States of Pope John Paul II, who plans to make stopover in the diocese of Bishop McCarrick. Although the nuncio expresses in a report that “ there is a risk of scandal if the Pope goes to Newark », The organization of the trip will go beyond and John Paul II will go there in 1995.
In 1996, the “prudence” of the Congregation for Bishops
One year later, in 1996, while Bishop McCarrick has been at the head of the Diocese of Newark for ten years, his transfer is starting to be discussed. The Chicago post is mentioned. The Congregation for Bishops then considers that the accusations concerning him are not credible, but nevertheless considers that “ this does not completely eliminate the possibility of certain wrongdoing “. It is then recommended “ proceed very slowly and with caution “. Recommendation followed by effect since Bishop McCarrick will not be appointed to Chicago.
In 1999, McCarrick’s name returns to the congregation of bishops for a possible appointment as head of the diocese of New York. A few months before, Cardinal O’Connor informed the new nuncio, arrived in Washington, of “ certain elements of a moral nature Concerning McCarrick and advising against considering his candidacy to succeed him. In October 1999, he alerted the nuncio again in a letter in which he gathered numerous accusations including the fact that McCarrick “Share his bed” with many “Male visitors”, including priests and seminarians, including in his house by the sea.
This letter is sent to the Congregation for Bishops and to the Secretariat of State. Informed, John Paul II ordered the nuncio to carry out an investigation. This considers that ” rumors and allegations Are unfounded, but recommends not promoting Bishop McCarrick for fear of the scandal they could cause.
The American bishop was thus initially excluded from the candidates for the post of Washington. It emerges from the report that it was John Paul II himself who asked to include him in this list before choosing him. in fine in 2000. In the meantime, McCarrick had sent him a vigorous letter of defense. In its report, the Vatican justifies this blindness of Pope John Paul II by his Polish past, scalded by “ the secret service procedures to denounce priests to weaken the Church “.
The McCarrick question dealt with between Rome and Washington
The denunciations did not stop there and several arrived at the apostolic nunciature, especially in the weeks following the announcement of McCarrick’s appointment to Washington. But we have to wait for theelection of Benedict XVI so that the first steps are finally taken.
Presumably aware of Cardinal McCarrick’s ancient habit of sleeping in the same bed as seminarians, Benedict XVI decides to quickly withdraw from him the leadership of the diocese of Washington. Even after this departure, reports continue to arrive, to the point that in November 2006, the nuncio wrote to the Secretary of State that McCarrick “ constantly keeps us on the brink of the possibility at any time he is involved
in sex scandals “.
The years 2006 to 2008 thus mark a real turning point, with a succession of back and forth between Rome and Washington, to deal with the McCarrick question. Although kept informed, Benedict XVI did not decide to take charge of the file himself and left it in the hands of the Congregation for Bishops. The Archbishop Emeritus of Washington is then asked to leave his lodging in a seminary, to reduce his public life and instead devote it to prayer. Instructions that he will ignore for a long time.
“I was sexually assaulted by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick”
In the 2010s, the accusations reaching the nunciature reach a new level of gravity, presenting McCarrick as a “ predator “, While a testimony affirms:” I was sexually assaulted by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick “. According to the report, the Vatican asked the nuncio – then Bishop Carlo Maria Vigano – to investigate these accusations, which it did not do.
During all these years and until 2017, Cardinal McCarrick continued to increase the number of trips, official meetings and trips to Rome. Although warned of the injunctions that had been formulated to him, the successive nuncios do not seem to have reiterated them. In Rome, Benedict XVI and then Pope Francis did not take offense. In 2008, Cardinal Re and then in 2014 Bishop Becciu noted with displeasure his presence in the Eternal City, but did not act further, even if Cardinal Re criticized Theodore McCarrick for it.
The impunity that Theodore McCarrick seems to enjoy takes end in June 2017, when American dioceses receive explicit reports implicating abuses which, for the first time – if we exclude the mother’s report in the 1970s – concern a minor. A year later, the cardinal’s disgrace will be made public. Quickly, he will be forced to resign from the College of Cardinals before being excluded from the priesthood a few months later.