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Correspondence confirms Benedict XVI placed restrictions on McCarrick in 2008

While confirming some elements of the allegations made last August by former Vatican nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Monsignor Figueiredo’s report does not answer key questions about what Pope Francis knew about McCarrick’s actions.

Then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick attends a Mass in Rome April 13, 2018. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A priest who was ordained by then-archbishop Theodore McCarrick and who worked with the defrocked prelate for decades has published a report detailing correspondence that confirms that Pope Benedict XVI had placed restrictions on McCarrick’s ministry in 2008.

The correspondence quoted in the report also indicates that these restrictions were known to then-Archbishop Donald Wuerl, McCarrick’s successor as head of the Washington, DC archdiocese; it further demonstrates that McCarrick’s disregard of the restrictions began almost immediately upon their being imposed.

Msgr. Anthony J. Figueiredo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, was secretary to Archbishop McCarrick for a year in the 1990s and worked in Rome for decades in various Vatican offices, including the Curia and the Pontifical North American College. He stated that he published his report on Tuesday, the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood by McCarrick, to “help the Church as she further endeavors to create a culture of transparency.” Reporters from Crux and CBS News have seen the correspondence quoted in Figueiredo’s report and confirmed its authenticity.

Figueiredo’s report contains an admission by McCarrick that he showed “an unfortunate lack of judgment” in sharing his bed with priests and/or seminarians at his summer house, but denies ever having or seeking sexual relations “with anyone, man, woman, or child.”

Confirming that restrictions were imposed on his ministry, McCarrick states in an August 2008 letter to Archbishop Pietro Sambi that, “having studied the letter of Cardinal Re [then prefect of the Congregation for Bishops] and having shared it with my Archbishop [Donald Wuerl],” McCarrick would seek a new residence with the help of Wuerl and would “make no commitments to accept any public appearances or talks without the express permission of the Apostolic Nuncio or the Holy See itself.”

In a letter to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then the Vatican’s Secretary of State, McCarrick again acknowledges the restrictions placed on him and expresses his willingness to be “less public a figure.”

While confirming some elements of the allegations made last August by former Vatican nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano—specifically that McCarrick was placed under some sanctions during the pontificate of Benedict XVI and that Cardinal Wuerl was aware of them—Figueiredo’s report does not substantiate Vigano’s accusations that Pope Francis knew about sexual abuse allegations against McCarrick; that Francis knew about Benedict XVI’s restrictions on McCarrick’s ministry; or that Francis “freed” McCarrick from his predecessor’s restrictions.

Figueiredo’s report does demonstrate that Benedict’s restrictions were disregarded by McCarrick almost immediately. Figueiredo writes: “Since the restrictions imposed were not made public and despite McCarrick’s promises, he continued his public ministry, including taking a highly visible public role, interacting with high-ranking Vatican officials (including Cardinals Sodano and Bertone and heads of Dicasteries), public officials in the United States and around the globe.”

McCarrick’s globe-trotting continued after the election of Pope Francis, Figueiredo writes: “Without any sense of the lifting of the restrictions, McCarrick continues his foreign travel after the election of Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, as evidenced by a number of communications from him regarding his extensive activity around the globe.” These included communications with the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and with Pope Francis himself, in which McCarrick provides updates on his whereabouts and activities in China, the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Philippines, among other places.

The same day Figueiredo’s report was published, a lengthy interview with Pope Francis by a Mexican television station was published, in which the Holy Father stated, “I knew nothing about McCarrick, of course, nothing. I have said it several times, I knew nothing.”

In concluded his report, Msgr. Figueiredo states that he has other documents relating to McCarrick, and that these “will form the basis of further possible reports if this contributes to the good of the ongoing investigation and efforts to address the abuse crisis, love of Holy Mother Church, and ultimately the salvation of souls.”

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  1. If Pope Francis didn’t know about McCarrick, perhaps he SHOULD have known. Any Cardinal or Curia member with firsthand knowledge of McCarrick’s illicit behaviour should have informed him of the restrictions imposed by Pope Benedict. This type of neglect and failure to fully investigate “who knew what and when” makes the leadership of Catholic church look incompetent and foolish.

    • Perhaps Benedict should have been more forceful. It’s hard to see these ‘restrictions’ as anything other than something said after the fact, to cover his own response. “Oh yes, well, ‘technically’ there were restrictions that he ought to have followed!”
      The fact we’re left with is that Francis laicized “Uncle Ted,” and Benedict didn’t. That leads to more questions.

  2. I guess the current “defense strategy” of “the McCarrick Club” in Rome, Chicago, DC, etc etc etc is:

    “When it comes to the 6th Commandment we have absolutely no idea what is going on in our seminaries, rectories and beach houses, but trust us, we are otherwise really savvy and our new accord with The Chinese Communist Party has put them right where we want them.”

    (Did we mention that our Uncle Ted had also been working the China deal for 2-3 decades, as reported by stunned Catholics hearing him pitch for recognizing “the Chinese National Catholic Church” at the Catholic Info Center in the early 2000s? We sent him to finish the job before he was outed as one of our perverted predator pals.)

    Putting it all together, they seem nothing more than a confederacy of feline, gaslighting dunces…

    But hey…cash has to come from somewhere so that we can buy our million dollar beach houses and renovate our penthouse apartments in Rome.

  3. It would be wise for us to be cautious until “all the cards are on the table” before drawing conclusions. It seems that our Church, reflecting the ways of the world, is caught in very deep and dark dynamics that have not yet been fully exposed and clarified. How right Paul VI was when he said that the smoke of Satan had entered the Church!

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