CNA Staff, Nov 10, 2020 / 07:35 am (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of the United States expressed their renewed desire for healing Tuesday, after the Vatican’s release of a long-awaited report on the career of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, with bishops stressing their commitment to accountability and concern for victims of abuse.
Cardinal-designate Wilton Gregory of Washington, where McCarrick was archbishop and later a cardinal, called the report’s release “important, difficult, and necessary.”
“Though I am only now receiving this document, as you are, and have not had an opportunity to read it carefully, by virtue of the simple fact that this investigation had to be conducted and this report has to be written, my heart hurts for all who will be shocked, saddened, scandalized and angered by the revelations contained therein,” said Gregory in a statement released on Tuesday morning.
“Nonetheless, we know that if true redemptive healing is ever to commence – for those who have been harmed and for the Church Herself- this disclosure must be made.
Gregory promised that he would have “more to say” after he is able “to study the report more closely, especially as it relates to our Archdiocese of Washington.”
The report “demands prayerful, thorough and thoughtful reflection,” said Gregory.
The McCarrick Report, released Nov. 10, is the result of a two-year investigation first announced by Pope Francis in October 2018.
The Report found that, while allegations of misconduct by McCarrick were known at various stages of his rise through the Church’s hierarchy, at the time decisions were taken to promote McCarrick the claims lacked supporting evidence. The Report also said that Pope St. John Paul II had been given “inaccurate and incomplete” information on McCarrick by several U.S. bishops.
The Archdiocese of Newark, where McCarrick was archbishop for 15 years, released a statement from Cardinal Joseph Tobin, calling the release of the report “unprecedented and substantial.”
“We commend the leadership of Pope Francis and the Holy See in seeking to bring collective healing to victims of Theodore McCarrick and all those who have suffered because of clergy sexual abuse, while attempting to restore justice for the Catholic community that has been so grievously wounded by sexual abuse, abuse of power and the mishandling of allegations,” said Tobin.
The cardinal described the report as “a significant and powerful step forward in advancing accountability and transparency regarding sexual abuse.”
“Beyond the victims themselves, failures by some leaders in the Catholic Church have wounded many including the families and loved ones of victims and the faithful. It is important to recognize that the Church has made progress in responding to clergy abuse by implementing and updating policies and programs to safeguard the faithful, especially the most vulnerable among us,” Tobin said.
Tobin added that he hoped that the report “will provide insights that will help us to strengthen further our well-established programs aimed at protecting the faithful.”
“We remain united in our sympathy and support for all victims of sexual abuse and pray for healing and reconciliation within our Church.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the archdiocese where McCarrick was first ordained as a priest and bishop, and which conducted the investigation into McCarrick in 2018, paid tribute to the survivors of abuse who had come forward in the process of the investigation.
“Let me begin by once again expressing my sincere and deep sorrow to any who have suffered sexual abuse, and for the family members and loved ones of victim-survivors who have also suffered as a result of these sins and crimes.”
“Great credit must be given to those victim-survivors who bravely came forward in 2018 and made the initial allegations of abuse to this archdiocese. You took us at our word that we wanted to assist you, and in so doing, you helped bring this matter to light, proving that anyone who has abused a minor, even a cardinal, will be punished.”
Dolan called the Report’s release “a necessary step” in understanding how McCarrick had advanced so high in Church life.
McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958 and auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York in 1977. He became in 1981 Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, then Archbishop of Newark in 1986, and then in 2001 Archbishop of Washington, DC, where he retired in 2006.
He became a cardinal in 2001, but resigned from the College of Cardinals after it emerged in June 2018 that he had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting a minor. Allegations of serial sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests soon followed, and McCarrick was laicized in February 2019.
McCarrick’s public disgrace in 2018 and laicization a year later shocked Catholics in the United States and around the world, and triggered an international crisis of credibility for the Church’s hierarchy, leading to Pope Francis calling an unprecedented meeting of the world’s bishops in 2019 to address issues of sexual abuse and accountability in the Church.
The fallout of the 2018 allegations against McCarrick, and reports that Church leaders knew for years about possible instances of misconduct but failed to act, also contributed to Pope Francis’ promulgation of Vos estis lux mundi, a new provision in canon law allowing for the investigation and trial of bishops for the failure to act on allegations.
Earlier in the morning, USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles welcomed the report’s release, while acknowledging that the new details of McCarrick’s career in the Church would be painful for American Catholics, and especially victims of abuse.
“This is another tragic chapter in the Church’s long struggle to confront the crimes of sexual abuse by clergy,” Gomez said.
“To McCarrick’s victims and their families, and to every victim-survivor of sexual abuse by the clergy, I express my profound sorrow and deepest apologies. Please know that my brother bishops and I are committed to doing whatever is in our power to help you move forward and to ensure that no one suffers what you have been forced to suffer.”
Other U.S. bishops have added their own reactions to the McCarrick Report.
Bishop Paul Bradley of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan said that reading the Report “we see the tragedy of sin’s awful impact on all of us.”
“May we all unite together in prayer, especially for all survivors of clergy sexual abuse; may this sin be rooted out of the Church forever.”
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