The Vatican’s prosecution of the disgraced former Archbishop of Washington, DC, Theodore McCarrick is proceeding and has expanded to include at least one witness who came forward after the Archdiocese of New York’s independent review board deemed an earlier allegation against McCarrick credible.
Specifically, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) asked the judicial vicar for the Archdiocese of New York, Msgr. Richard Welch, to take the statement of James Grein, one of McCarrick’s alleged victims, who has been called to witness in the case against him.
Quite legitimate furore erupted following a report yesterday by Nicole Winfield for the Associated Press, detailing some of Mr. Grein’s testimony, including allegations of abuse McCarrick committed against Mr. Grein while celebrating the Sacrament of Christian Penance.
The allegations of fact in the report are sickening: they include sexual assault against Mr. Grein that began when he was as young as 11, and sometimes took place while McCarrick was hearing Mr. Grein’s confession.
The inclusion of Mr. Grein among the witnesses is significant from a technical legal point of view. There has been concern expressed by canon lawyers regarding the Vatican’s ability to make the original complaint against McCarrick stick. The alleged victim, whose complaint the New York archdiocesan review board found credible, was 16 years old when the incident allegedly occurred. Under Church law at the time the incident allegedly occurred, a 16-year-old would not have been a legal minor.
That the CDF tribunal is hearing evidence from Mr. Grein, who came forward with his allegations after news the archdiocesan review board found the original complaint credible, suggests Vatican prosecutors have expanded the scope of their case.
The Press Office of the Holy See did not respond to a request for comment on why CDF is farming out significant portions of its prosecution to officials of the New York archdiocese.
When CDF conducted its canonical trial of Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agaña — a high-profile case, but less significant by orders of magnitude than the case of McCarrick — a college of judges led by Cardinal Raymond Burke was constituted to hear the case, and went to Guam to take evidence.
Archbishop Apuron’s charges included sexual misconduct with minors, but apparently were not limited to those. He was allegedly involved in shady real estate deals and financial irregularities, as well. The trial court found Apuron guilty of some of the charges, though the Vatican has never specified which of the six counts against him in the first instance resulted in guilty verdicts.
The secrecy with which canonical trials are conducted has been a subject of criticism, as Church leadership struggles to close a persistent credibility gap. Catholic News Agency reported that the Archdiocese of New York — for which McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958, by Cardinal Francis Spellman — issued a letter of suitability for Fr. Donald Timone a week before the New York Times reported the Archdiocese had paid two separate settlements on Timone’s count. The New York Archdiocese also told CNA it had reopened its investigation into Timone in the Fall of 2018.
Earlier this year, an auxiliary bishop of New York, John Jenik, was suspended after the archdiocesan review board deemed an accusation he had an abusive relationship with a minor decades ago “credible and substantiated”.
In the week before Christmas, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, Alexander Salazar, resigned after news he had faced allegations police deemed credible in 2002. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles informed the Holy See of the allegation in 2005. CDF imposed restrictions on Salazar, but did not remove him. He served for thirteen years after the secret CDF restrictions were imposed.
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