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Analysis: What does Cardinal Farrell’s promotion say about the McCarrick report?

By JD Flynn for CNA

Pope Francis walks past Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, at the Knock Shrine in Knock, Ireland, Aug. 26, 2018. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Denver Newsroom, Oct 13, 2020 / 02:55 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Kevin Farrell was appointed last week to lead a small committee charged with scrutinizing high-level Vatican financial decisions not governed by ordinary Vatican oversight norms.

Because of Farrell’s background, the cardinal’s promotion raises questions about what is contained, and not contained, in a long-awaited report on the Vatican’s investigation into the career, connections, and sexual malfeasance of Theodore McCarrick.

Already the camerlengo—charged with leading the College of Cardinals when the pope dies— Farell will now be given singular insight into the Vatican’s finances, and into progress in the ongoing task of Vatican financial reform and accountability.

The transactions Farrell will oversee involve matters governed by the pontifical secret, matters pertaining to the international sovereignty of the Holy See, and matters pertaining to high-level diplomatic relations; Farrell and his committee will be therefore uniquely informed about issues of Church governance and statecraft at the highest level, and, one supposes, exercise some control over the purse on those fronts.

Information is currency in Rome, and Cardinal Farrell’s new position makes him uniquely informed, and therefore among the most powerful figures in Vatican leadership.

Farrell, 73, was born in Dublin, and was ordained a priest of the Legion of Christ in 1978. He left that religious order in the 1980s, and was incardinated in the Archdiocese of Washington. He was a pastor, director of the archdiocesan Hispanic center, briefly director of Catholic Charities, and spent the 1990s as archdiocesan CFO.

In 2001, the year McCarrick came to Washington, Farrell became vicar general of the Washington archdiocese and an auxiliary bishop. Farrell also served as moderator of the archdiocesan curia; as both vicar general and moderator of the curia, he would have been McCarrick’s principal deputy on matters related to finances, parishes, schools, charitable projects, ministry programs, and the chancery staff of the archdiocese.

Farrell also lived with McCarrick from 2002 until 2006.

During the time in which Farrell lived with McCarrick and was his principal deputy in Washington, the Archdiocese of Newark paid into an $80,000 settlement with a laicized priest who claims he was abused by the former cardinal. In the same time period, the Diocese of Metuchen received several complaints that McCarrick committed abuse, which it referred to law enforcement and settled out of court. In 2006, the Diocese of Metuchen paid a separate $100,000 settlement to a laicized priest who said he had been abused by McCarrick.

In the same year, 2006, McCarrick moved from the apartment he shared with Farrell into a seminary in the Washington archdiocese.

After McCarrick retired, Farrell’s new boss was Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who first heard in 2004 an allegation that McCarrick had abused a priest – the priest, in fact, who was paid $80,000 by the Archdiocese of Newark while McCarrick and Farrell lived together.

In the months they worked together, before Farrell became Bishop of Dallas, the matter apparently did not come up between Wuerl and his deputy.

Farrell claimed in 2018 that, even while he lived with McCarrick and was his principal deputy – even while issues concerning archdiocesan litigation and public relations were his responsibility – he never had “any reason to suspect,” the multiple sex abuse allegations and payouts against his boss, personal friend, and mentor.

Farrell is not known to have raised objections to McCarrick’s move into a seminary, his employment of seminarians as drivers and secretaries, and his continued vocations work in the Archdiocese of Washington, presumably because, as he said, he had neither knowledge or suspicion of McCarrick’s proclivities.

But when he said in 2018 that he neither knew or suspected anything about McCarrick’s misdeeds, journalists of all stripes suggested that Cardinal Farrell’s claim strained credulity.

Journalists, priests, and Catholic academics have said they heard rumors about McCarrick during the time Farrell was his second-in-command. And McCarrick himself was informed of the allegations against him, and of subsequent settlements, while he lived and worked with Farrell.

Still, Farrell has insisted that he knew nothing about the numerous sex abuse allegations and payouts surrounding his boss.

And this month, Farrell received his second major promotion since the McCarrick scandal began; he became camerlengo in February 2019.

Of course, some observers have questioned the wisdom of appointing to such important leadership positions a person who failed to hear, notice, or suspect an issue with McCarrick, even as legal settlements began to stack up. But that prudential judgment is a matter for the pope to decide. Of more general interest is what the Vatican’s report on McCarrick will say about a bishop who is suspected by some of being less-than-forthcoming about his former boss, and has been promoted anyway.

Since Farrell has been promoted, it seems clear the report will not to find he was complicit or willfully silent in a cover-up of McCarrick’s misdeeds. This means the report will either take the cardinal at his word, acknowledge the issue but reach no conclusion, or ignore the matter entirely.

It may be that Farrell actually had no idea about McCarrick, as he has said. But the McCarrick report is expected to do more than take denials at face value while moving through the long list of people who might have known something about McCarrick and failed to intervene.

If the report doesn’t seriously examine the plausibility of Farrell’s denial, it will almost certainly be accused by some Catholics of perpetuating the kind of clericalist cover-up it is expected to expose.

If the report examines the issue, and is inconclusive about what Farrell knew or didn’t know, the wisdom of his promotion will be called into question, and the scandal of the appointment will be raised. Some commentators will wonder whether the Holy See has appreciated the kind of mistrust garnered by the McCarrick scandal, and how often the Farrell denial has been a focal point of those who are having trouble trusting the Vatican’s commitment to transparency.

If Farrell is not raised at all in the report, at least some commentators will wonder if the report had any intention of examining the networks of silence and complicity surrounding a serially abusive cardinal who damaged the integrity and credibility of the Church, or whether it was announced and produced to placate angry American Catholics, with little intention of holding enablers to account.

Some, no doubt, will ask whether the Holy See really is serious about transforming ecclesial culture, and excising enablers from the ranks of Church leadership.

There has been keen interest among some U.S. Catholics in the McCarrick report, whose publication has now seemed imminent for nearly a year. But whether the promotion of a key McCarrick collaborator has deflated that interest, and with it hope for Vatican accountability, remains to be seen.

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  1. I suspect you could get good odds betting on which report you’ll see first: The McCarrick report or the Durham report.

    • In fact, we will see neither since the Deep State through Durham is burying the report and indictments Russian collusion coup d’etat and the Deep Church through Bergoglio and Parolin is burying the report and canonical penalties on McCarrick’s mentor and enablers.

  2. I am given to wonder after all that I have seen, heard or read about Church machinations whether the bishops of our Catholic Church (with only a few exceptions) are capable of speaking the Truth. In that case, they would be incapable of knowing Christ, having a relationship with Him and introducing Him to those who do not know Christ. Because Christ is the Truth.

    • Since that is true, as I also believe is the case, then the bishops of our Catholic Church (with only few exceptions) are faithless apostates since habitual lies and hypocrisy are a de facto denial of Christ the Truth. As such, apostasy involves excommunication latae sententiae, and these “bishops” are such in name only, having been deprived of both their positions and the authority it entails.

  3. There were rumors in 2018 that the CDF had a 500 page dossier on Farrell himself. Is there any truth to this? Has any news agency investigated it?

    • You may be thinking of the 500-page dossier on the homosexual mafia within the Curia that Benedict gave to Bergoglio and promptly disappeared, probably forever. Since Farrell was McCarrick’s “roommate” for many years, I think that outside Bergoglio’s Vatican no one considers 2+ 2 to equal 5 and you have the answer you need thereby.

  4. – Got to read about St.Callistus today , with his interesting background …relationship to the Donatist heresy ..

    ? Our times too , sort of dealing with similar areas much as we claim to be in times of Mercy , with the motto – ‘Jesus , I Trust in You ‘ in His Will , to have wisdom to leave things where they need to be , since He has answered the call for help for The Church to deal with these issues , in a manner that would benefit the most , without being the cause of worse harm by excess focus on same ..

    Interesting connection name wise, more so role wise , between S.G.Luisa of the Divine Will and St.Magdalene …for our times that have seen enough unholy and carnal ways world over ..Lord manifesting His glory as to what He can do for His children who wandered off to pig pens … how every such choice also have impacted other areas and lives ..

    The grace and light to look deep within each and thus all relationships , in light of what ought to have been , in the Divine Will – reading through the O.T . is a painful enough exposure of same , as our Family History ..

    ? Same thus to be the cleansing waters needed for any who are thirsting …
    to thirst for The Precious Blood and its New and Divine Life , to undo the deep wounds …. to help bring forth much good ..
    to help undo the lies of having been unwanted , not the truth of having been willed and loved by The Father ..a lie that plays out at flood levels in our carnal times …

    Thus , the debts that can be more than the 10, 000 talents –
    that is 33 X 10000 Kg of gold –

    as in the pricelessness of holiness …what each of us , who too have neglected to fast and pray , also owe to all ..
    Mercy !

  5. I really don’t think that many bishops (especially Vatican ones) care about God, the faithful or really anything at all. They’ve become soulless institutionalized bureaucratic creatures who haunt the Church. That’s why they do what they do. In an effort to fill their emptiness they devour everything around them…food, money, children, souls. They’re like ghosts, pale shadows of real men. This is the only way I can make sense of these people. They should be pitied, feared and prayed for. They should also be kept at arms length.

  6. I disagree strongly with the presumption of many that Cdl. Farrell is lying about not knowing anything about abuse claims against McCarrick.

    Unless there is firm evidence implicating Farrell – and I mean verifiable evidence – then Farrell should be presumed to be telling the truth.

    Wouldn’t *you* wanted to be afforded that same courtesy/deference?

    • As the then-Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, said back in the summer of 2002 at the NCCB’s “famous” meeting in Dallas, we need to remember that these priests who are accused are also American citizens, and as such are endowed with the same rights as all other citizens accused of crime, including the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and the right to confront their accusers in court.

      When I read this article, and got to the parts which talked about the four years that then-Bishop Farrell and then-Archbishop McCarrick “lived together” in Washington, DC, I presumed that they were residing at whatever mansion the Archdiocese of Washington provides for its Archbishop to live in.

      And I recalled that in the Archdiocese of Chicago, for quite a number of years, Bishop Raymond Goedert (auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese – and, for a number of years, its Vicar General as well) lived in “the Cardinal’s mansion” in Chicago (a BIG house just west of Chicago’s “Gold Coast” – really way too big for just one person), both during the last years of Cardinal Bernardin’s tenure as Archbishop and during quite a few (possibly all) of the years of Cardinal George’s tenure as Archbishop. And so, I think, did whoever served as Cardinal Bernardin’s secretary and master of ceremonies during those years – and I KNOW that both of Cardinal George’s secretaries/MCs, Msgr. John O’Donnell (early years) and Father Daniel Flens (most of Cardinal George’s tenure) lived at “the Cardinal’s mansion.” And not one of those bishops or priests are/were afflicted with same-sex attraction.

      So yes, I do agree with you that Cardinal Farrell having lived under the same roof with McCarrick does not NECESSARILY mean that he knew of McCarrick’s intrinsically-disordered sexual preferences or his predatory sexual behavior, nor does it NECESSARILY mean that Cardinal Farrell was a sexual “bird of a feather” with McCarrick. But I won’t rule it out entirely, either…..

      Either way, I’d expect the same “whitewash” vis-a-vis the McCarrick report as the Archdiocese of Chicago pulled in “clearing” four homosexual-predator priests (all four parish pastors) in the past year or year-and-a-half – and in restoring them to active ministry in the Archdiocese (2 of them at the same parish from which they were removed, the other two to pastorates elsewhere in the Archdiocese), in also allowing another sexual-predator priest to sneak into a parish far enough removed from the one from which he was removed as pastor 4 and a half years ago (for an “inappropriate relationship with an adult female”) to allow him to quietly (and with no public announcement from the Archdiocese) serve first as a resident and now as a full-fledged associate pastor (one of three associate pastors in the parish), and, of course, the false, trumped-up charges alleged against Father C. Frank Phillips, CR, which enabled the current Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago and the Provincial of the Resurrectionist fathers to railroad Father Phillips out of the Archdiocese and into exile at the Resurrectionist provincial residence in St. Louis.

      • Your fair-mindedness and caution is appreciated. However, there are a few facts that may change your assessment of Cdl. Farrell once they’re taken into consideration. Farrell’s claim that he had no idea of what McCarrick was up to during the years that they lived together is not credible. The priests of his own former diocese (Dallas) say that he is the type of controlling manager who has to know what everybody else is up to; in fact, as an ecclesiastical climber he is proud of that attribute. Bishop Lopes is on record for saying that while a seminarian he and his classmates learned that all the bishops on the Atlantic Coast were aware of the rumours swirling around McCarrick during his New Jersey period (first Metuchen then Newark). And as Rod Dreher points out, Cdl. Farrell told a bald face lie about having hardly ever crossed paths with Fr. Marcial Maciel during his time with the Legionnaries. Then Fr. Farrell was in a high position overseeing all the Legion’s schools in North America and would elbow others out of the way for the privilege of picking up the Founder at the airport at every possible opportunity. The question is whether Pope Francis knows any of this, or if he does, how can he be so agenda-driven that he will take anybody as a ally, no matter how shady? What’s the point of driving foxes out of the hen house if you’re just going install another fox rule over the roost?

5 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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  3. Cosa rivela la più recente nomina del Cardinale Kevin Farrell sul resoconto dello scandalo McCarrick, di cui stiamo aspettando la pubblicazione da due anni |
  4. Quick Hits: Cardinal Farrell’s new post, a priest’s belated vindication | Clever Coin Counter
  5. Cardinal Farrell’s new post, and a priest’s belated vindication... - Salvation & Prosperity

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