The McCarrick Report: No Smoking Gun, but Massive System Failure

Theodore McCarrick counted on the members of the episcopal club not to break the club rules. The path forward lies in dismantling those rules and consigning them to oblivion, along with the rest of the clerical caste system.

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

The long awaited McCarrick Report – or to give it its full, gloriously bureaucratic title, the Report of the Holy See’s Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 – 2017) – contains no smoking gun that explains McCarrick’s rise through the hierarchy and his gaudy, globe-trotting, post-retirement career. Nor does it contain any evidence that, in climbing the ecclesiastical greasy pole, Theodore McCarrick bribed anyone. Some will undoubtedly conclude from this that the two-year long probe led by the Holy See’s Secretariat of State is another Vatican exercise in damage control.

But the vast amount of documentation supporting the report, and even the lengthy period of its preparation, tell against that suspicion, however reasonable it might seem in light of other Vatican scandals. Moreover, if it’s read carefully and without preconceptions, the McCarrick Report is a lengthy confession of massive institutional system failure, in which a dysfunctional clerical culture played the dominant role. That may be a less satisfying “answer” to the puzzle of Theodore McCarrick than a dramatic, documented revelation of papal perfidy, or evidence of a different kind of financial scandal – the de facto purchase of a cardinalate – at the higher altitudes of the Roman Curia. But forty years of experience tells me that the system-failure explanation is likely to be true.

“Clericalism” is such a punching bag in the Church today that it’s important to define the term carefully.

By “clerical culture” I mean a culture in which the sacramental and natural fraternity of priests and bishops is debased into a caste system in which the protection of the caste and the maintenance of its superior status in the Church is the prime imperative. In such a caste system, the lower clerical castes do not question or challenge the upper clerical castes, while the upper castes enforce caste discipline. In this sense of the term, Theodore McCarrick (for all his legendary, hail-fellow-well-met bonhomie) was as “clerical” as clerical gets. He was a product of the clerical caste system; he understood its mores and mechanisms; and for decades he used it to cover his depredations and advance his career.

He was not without skills; he was an intelligent man and a gifted linguist who worked at a ferocious pace. But he was also a narcissistic predator and pathological liar whose Uncle Ted demeanor could mask his ferocious ambition, his relentless self-promotion and sycophancy to superiors, and, of course, his depredations and abuse of lower members of the caste or caste-aspirants. He was a past master at gaining the trust of others, including Pope John Paul II, and then betraying that trust.

The clerical caste system that McCarrick successfully gamed for decades was dysfunctional in many ways, and one of its dysfunctions was the way in which it warped the Church’s decision-making process in the selection of senior leadership. The McCarrick Report reaffirms that, while there were many rumors of McCarrick’s misbehavior (and not only at the infamous beach house), there was no hard evidence of his depredations until he was at retirement age, and there was no charge of his having abused a minor until 2017.

That is not altogether reassuring, however, because the rumors were out there and nothing was done to investigate them thoroughly until it was far too late. (Anyone in a prominent position in the Church who claims never to have heard those rumors is not to be taken seriously.) The report does indicate that Cardinal John O’Connor of New York thought the rumors sufficiently troubling that he raised cautions about McCarrick’s promotion from Newark to a traditional cardinalatial see: cautions that Pope John Paul II originally accepted. But then McCarrick, a practiced and persuasive prevaricator, swore in a duplicitous letter to John Paul II’s secretary that none of it was true. And John Paul believed him – perhaps influenced by the incomplete information the Holy See had received from three American bishops asked to look into the McCarrick rumors after O’Connor had raised his concerns; perhaps influenced as well by his experience of the Polish secret police using charges of sexual impropriety to impugn priests and bishops . The suggestion in some quarters that John Paul II and his closest associates somehow knew about McCarrick’s wickedness and proceeded with his promotion anyway is falsified and rebutted by the report, as it should be. Even brilliant and holy men – even saints – can be deceived.

McCarrick’s appointment to Washington and his red hat followed, but the basic damage had been done long before John Paul II was deceived. The damage had been done because, throughout his pre-Washington career and indeed before his appointment as auxiliary bishop of New York, the clerical caste system had protected him, such that his skills and talents were visible, not his duplicities and perversions. That was system failure.

Another manifestation of system failure was evident in what the report describes as the fruitless attempts by Benedict XVI and his associates to shut down McCarrick’s globetrotting after his retirement. The McCarrick Report makes clear that this was the Pope’s will and intention. But neither the will nor the intention were carried out and given effect by the relevant subordinates: in part, one can only assume, because, prior to the very recent past, cardinals occupied a virtually impregnable position in the Catholic clerical caste system.

In brief, Theodore McCarrick’s career from his appointment as auxiliary bishop of New York until his retirement years as archbishop emeritus of Washington was a massive example of system failure in the leadership culture of the Catholic Church. That failure, in turn, reflected the dysfunctionality of the then-dominant clerical caste system, the mores of which served to protect a predator like McCarrick from the consequences of his predations. Those serious about genuine, evangelically-oriented Catholic reform, rather than in score-settling or point-scoring in the internal Catholic culture wars, will thus focus their post-report attention on ensuring that the protective measures that have been put in place in the Church since the Long Lent of 2002 function properly, so that there are no repetitions of the tawdry tale of Theodore McCarrick.

As I suggest in The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission, dismantling what remains of a clerical caste system that remains entrenched in parts of the world Church (notably Latin America and Poland) should be a priority task for the next pontificate. Important steps have been taken in reforming the formation of priests and the selection of bishops by John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. Those first steps must be completed by a further reform of seminaries, such that a man reaches the threshold of priestly ordination understanding that he is embarking on a challenging and quite probably difficult vocation as a missionary, not on a privileged career. Those beginning steps must be completed by a reform of the process by which potential bishops are identified. That reform should include the input of knowledgeable, shrewd, and discrete lay men and women; and in that process of identifying the bishops of the future, it must be made clear to priests that complete honesty is expected of them in evaluating a brother priest’s fitness for the episcopate.

Dismantling the clerical caste system is going to be particularly demanding for bishops. To guard against future McCarricks, bishops must insist that their priests exercise fraternal correction with each other when necessary, drawing the bishop into the process as necessary. And the bishops must commit to practicing fraternal correction with each other – a virtuous habit of the bishops of the patristic Church that the 21st-century episcopate must reclaim. Theodore McCarrick counted on the members of the episcopal club not to break the club rules. The path forward lies in dismantling those rules and consigning them to oblivion, along with the rest of the clerical caste system.

Priests and bishops need and deserve the support that comes from a sacramental fraternity. No serious lay Catholic will begrudge our pastors that. The clerical caste system, however, is a bogus form of fraternity. It warps the sacramental bonds that join priests to each other, priests to their bishop, and bishops to brother bishops. Dismantling that system is an evangelical imperative.

One final note: the extensive documentation in the McCarrick Report should put paid to the mantra that has been chanted since McCarrick’s 2018 downfall: Everyone knew. That is simply not true. Not only did “everyone” not know; no one knew with certainty about McCarrick’s serial predations at the various key points at which he ascended the ranks of the hierarchy. The report illustrates in detail a fact already known, i.e., that there were multiple rumors about McCarrick’s behavior. That those rumors were not more thoroughly investigated is a prime example of the system failure evident in this entire affair. But “everyone” did not know, and those who continue to insist otherwise are either ignorant or agenda-driven.

The eternal paradox of the Church, of which Christ himself warned us in Matthew 13:24-30, is that weeds and wheat, grave sinners and noble saints, co-exist and may even work together. That ought not diminish the shame Catholics will feel over the McCarrick affair, not should it preclude our praying for this man’s eventual repentance and conversion. By the same token, the sad fact of the weeds ought not diminish our gratitude for the wheat, and for the ways in which the wheat nourishes us.


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About George Weigel 307 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent book is The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), published by Ignatius Press.

41 Comments

  1. Accroding to our correspondent – no one knew – “the extensive documentation in the McCarrick Report should put paid to the mantra that has been chanted since McCarrick’s 2018 downfall: Everyone knew. That is simply not true. Not only did “everyone” not know; no one knew with certainty about McCarrick’s serial predations ”

    does this declaration apply to those who were molested as well. Quite a trick!

  2. George, how can you assert that the allegation that “everyone knew” is not true. Firstly, you provide no substantiation for this because it would be impossible to do so. Secondly, “everyone” knew does not mean that literally everyone knew. It simply implies that enough clerics knew and that, if they had chosen to do the honorable thing (as John O’Connor did), it could have spared the victims, spared the Church and perhaps even spared McCarrick himself from the possibility of hell as no man is beyond redemption. Lastly, it is wholly inadequate for the Vatican to lay this at the doorstep of systemic factors. While this is not to dismiss the rotten culture of hierarchical clericalism, individuals need to be named who probably knew or actually did know and chose to do nothing. In fact, I as a then-layperson was told about McCarrick’s peculiarities by a priest who resided with him in Newark such that my eyebrows were raised. You can be assured that the Catholic Church is a whispering mill beyond belief and, if I had a sense that this guy was suspect, many others on the inside knew a lot more than they’re admitting. Why, even my 20-something blonde haired son reported to me that when he attended midnight Mass at St. Matthew’s in D.C., he felt very uncomfortable with the way McCarrick was obviously staring at him throughout the homily.

    My question is this: Did the Vatican send a copy of the Report to McCarrick? After all, it would be the most charitable thing for them to do.

  3. Another ridiculous commentary by Weigel that parrots the mythology of Francis’ innocence like this travesty of a whitewash investigation itself, which implicitly slanders the prophetic whistleblower Archbishop Vigano and doesn’t even mention the witness/victims, who publicly came forward, by name. Pope Francis has an established history of mendacity, charitably speaking, and it is a false exercise in the avoidance of calumny to pretend that this report, a blatantly corrupt exercise, provides any service to the Church despite whatever misplaced dressing of language Weigel wants to apply. The smoking gun has been the continuing exercise of cowardice among some Catholic commentators.

    • “…that parrots the mythology of Francis’ innocence…”

      Huh? Weigel only mentions Francis once, in passing.

      Have you read the Report?

      • In fact I have, over about eight cups of coffee, since I have personal sources that forwarded me an early copy. True it was a quick study needing a second and third read. Nonetheless, it is a travesty at first reading. What Weigel discusses is not the point. The title of the article “No Smoking Gun” implies what he fails to address and what Weigel has failed to address for seven and a half years. This is a Vatican that protects a foolhardy Pope at all costs, even when the costs are monumentally more evil than sexual abuse, even when the costs are persecuted Chinese Catholics and sledgehammers in the face of Marian statues, or suppressing outrage over children buried alive so not to offend his sensibilities about a utopian paradise in the Amazon, or the consequences of whatever his phony pretenses might be to upholding our faith’s pro-life values while he hugs the world’s most fanatical abortionists who advocate more mass exterminations.
        The report claimed there was no documented evidence that Francis knew. Absolute baloney that Weigel implicitly upheld.

    • I’m less concerned with Pope Francis’ innocence than with St. John Paul II The Great’s innocence.
      .
      And Benedict’s, although I think it likely Benedict was/is innocent in all of this.

  4. First I ask the question, What’s the point of issuing an article that simply paraphrases the report? Most of us can read. John Paul II was expectedly defended, the Pope similarly defended in a seeming appeasement tradeoff. Evidence in this case has no relevance to the adage of a smoking gun. That in itself is reliance on smoke and mirrors in an essay that omits the glaring fact of the Archbishop’s witness. An allegation that was not denied at the time and remains unanswered. What we have therefore is incriminating circumstantial evidence that is more akin to spent cartridges that match the accused’ silence, and counter allegations seeking to impugn the Archbishop’s character. “Attempt to throw discredit upon me, accused of disobedience and negligence by those who have every interest in delegitimizing the one who brought this to light is an unparalleled network of corruption and immorality” (Viganò) . Blatantly against the one person within the Church, and among journalist cognoscenti Archbishop Viganò who actually broke open the entire corrupt charade. And the effrontery to remain silent throughout first claiming no knowledge, now claiming insufficient knowledge. That is itself unparalleled corruption and immorality and to defend it is skirting reality. What is further troubling in this essay is an inexplicable omission of reference to the dossier the Archbishop alleges to have shown the Pontiff, and the fact that immediately following his elevation to the papacy Benedict XVI didn’t simply forbid McCarrick’s travels, Benedict canonically sanctioned McCarrick.

    • Perhaps I expected too much from G Weigel’s assessment of the Report. Considering such favorable testimony compiled in the Report on behalf of McCarrick, example Cardinal John O’Connor former US Navy chaplain, it’s understandable how many were unconvinced and reticent in following up on accusations. Nonetheless many of us expect more on this Report than its face value. Remember too the Archbishop wasn’t alone in his testimony, he had a credentialed corroborating witness. “Vigano’s accusations are serious and credible. He has everything to lose by making them public. He cited specific letters and documents that he and others sent to Rome – which he said are readily available in the files of the Holy See and the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington. The Vatican must now release them. And his account was backed on Monday by Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, the former first counsellor at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, who said ‘Vigano’ tells the whole truth. I am a witness'” (Marc Theissen Mercury News 2018). What happened to the alleged dossier file on McCarrick and why didn’t the report address this pivotal issue including the corroboration of Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume?

      • Edward Pentin NCR posted “A reading of the dossier published by the Secretariat of State containing documents and testimonies narrating the facts regarding the former cardinal archbishop of Washington dismissed from the clerical state by Andrea Tornielli, Vatican editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication”. It’s unclear whether this is the dossier and if so the complete edition referred to by Archbishop Viganò and Mgr Lantheaume.

  5. I was struck by the way fellow bishops recommended McCarrick – they said he was an able administrator, a great fundraiser, a linguist, a tireless worker and a charmer. But nowhere did they say he was great at teaching the faith to his diocese. Nowhere did they say he was holy. Nowhere did they say he was Christ like. The charges that fly around about Bishops being mere administrators these days, with little real connection to a supernatural faith, may well be true. The trouble is we need more than mere administrators and fund raisers. We need people who can make sure the real Catholic faith is taught and taught and taught and taught, to everyone in the Diocese. Right now, most in Catholic school and in RCIA seem to tell us they are not taught anything. No wonder things are headed downhill. This administrator focus, rather than clericalism, may be the real problem we face.

  6. ‘ Every one did not know ‘ – can relate to that ..about the Divine Will revelations , a miraculous event that had been ongoing in The Church for many years , yet , still not known / grasped for what it is , by many , including myself , till very recently , in spite of having been enough of a ‘regular ‘ at glancing through a few ‘basic ‘ Catholic sites for our times 🙂

    ? That sense of something ‘lacking ‘ in the faith and its practice , as heard mentioned in one talk by Fr.Robert Young about an 83 Y.O holy nun saying just that , when she heard about the above ,as to how same helped to bring a deeper clarity to much ..

    Pope Emer putting the large statue of st.Anibale Di.Francia , at the Vatican , in 2010 – ? an act of expressing the desire and commitment for more explicit focus at The Church level for the above and the Holy Father too , trying to convey same to the world at large in a manner that meets the level of the ‘children.’

    Thank God that there are good smart priests now , who are too are there to help such that seminarians and others too can have easy access to the good revealed through same , to also gratefully see that there is no need for the fool’s gold of false power – whether as clericalism or in family relationships .

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJUNionX6o8

    ? God allowing the trials in other areas in our lives too , to move us and The Church ahead , to recognize and cherish the gift as it is meant to be , to help revive the faith as well as in helping the millions such as in China for whom the above might be the more effective means to take in the faith !

    Those who have made efforts to share the faith , including the former
    Cardl McCarrick , to be blessed and rewarded for the true intention of their hearts , regardless of the outcome and may The Lord spare any and all from the desire for vainglory and its related evils as being the motives in serving Him !

  7. I tried to leave a comment here before and it went missing.

    Steve Skojec identifies the basic weakness in Weigel’s argumentation: he simply trusts that Francis, Parolin, and in general the curia is going to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Hasn’t he learned any lessons from observing Vatican politics in these past eight years?

    As Skojec puts it: “He seems to be confused about the differences between point-scoring and accountability; systems may wind up broken, but the judgment of the men who govern those systems ultimately matter most. The Church is not some automated process that needs to simply be given a tune up. But Weigel is the sort of commentator so immune to healthy skepticism that he believes the fact that this report, produced by some of the very people most strongly accused of knowing about McCarrick and covering up for him, proves that those people didn’t know. Because, you know, they didn’t come right out and admit it within the report.”

    https://onepeterfive.com/mccarrick-report-released-preliminary-notes/

  8. The unintended subliminal message in the 450-page Report seems to be that just as there are “structures of sin” in the secular world, there are also “systemic failures” in the ecclesial world. Which is to imply that, in both cases, personal sins of commission and omission have been eclipsed by and are incidental to collective sin.

    The filter of too-much “fraternal collegiality” (like secular-boardroom “plausible deniability”) is to be faulted, greatly, as are the euphemisms said to be mingled into the Report itself, namely McCarrick’s “improprieties” and “misconduct” which was, we are informed, “tragic” (not heinous, disordered and unnatural, or at least criminal?).

    Regarding the actions of Pope John Paul II, we need not necessarily agree with one critic on these pages that he was “naive.” The campaign against bishops behind the Iron Curtain did include falsified sexual charges, and John Paul II was, himself, a victim of such and attempt. But, fortunately for him–and for the history of the 20th Century!–the scheme self-destructed. The perpetrator, a member of the Polish Secret Police, was so pleased with how he planted a forged diary involving a prostitute, that he went on a bender and crashed his car into a telephone pole, and then bragged about his exploit in the local police station. And, this information, of course, leaked out.

    The event was unearthed in piles of formerly classified Secret Police records, by George Weigel, and summarized in his biographical “The End of the Beginning” (Doubleday, 2010, pp. 152-3). So, after this familiar pattern in the East, maybe the Polish pope was inclined to suspect similar intrigues in the morally-corrupt West as well.

    Haven’t yet read the report, but my question will be whether the term “homosexual” has been studiously avoided….And, we may never see what was included in the single-copy, 300-page investigation of the Vatican, completed in early 2013 by three cardinals at the direction of Pope Benedict XVI, and then reportedly delivered to Pope Francis. At the time, it was speculated that the coupling (!) of homosexual infiltration with questionable Vatican finances (now finally in the open) was the compounded corruption that helped Pope Benedict, at his age and state of health, to discern that he was not the one to tear into the disordered and layered rat’s nest.

    • Now having read much (not all) of the Report, I add to my above remark (noting, too, that the term “homosexual” does in fact show up at least once [!] in 450 pages, also “crime”).

      But, in short, the deeper and diabolic nature of Evil cannot be countered even by better information and management, and fewer missed connections…Instead, it is THE NATURE OF EVIL to first construct a fictive universe within which the “misconduct”/sins make permissive sense to the self-compromised “person” (self-evasion as in Genesis 3:12-13 “the woman gave me some fruit”, and then from Eve, “the serpent deceived me”). About which, in August 6, 2000 and in writing, McCarrick likewise declared himself innocent and swore that he had “never had sexual relations with any person, male or female, young or old, cleric or lay.” (As with President Clinton, “it all depends on what the meaning if ‘is’ is,” or here the meaning of “sexual relations”).

      Well known is the fact that the homosexual subculture DEFINES “chastity” as only applying to sex between members of the opposite sex, just as “marriage” is redefined in 2015 by U.S. Supreme Court fatwa, or here “sexual relations.” Instead, the friendship of Uncle Ted. And in the McCarrick case, another part of the Big Lie is to balance his victimization with the Report’s hugely documented charitable works and countless and notably frenzied worldwide travels, all seemingly and in his mind for the Church. (But look at all the good he was doing!)

      On this mathematical point, and of the embedded homosexual subculture, why is this reader again reminded of St. John Paul II’s forgotten (?) VERITATIS SPLENDOR (1993) with its exposure of deceitful bundling of good with evil (the fictive universe of “proportionalism” and “consequentialism”)? Also, “…the commandment of love of God and neighbor does not have in its dynamic any higher limit, BUT it does have a lower limit, beneath which the commandment is broken” (n. 52).

      Of the diabolical and metastasizing nature of Evil—it is said well by a non-Catholic and Quaker who converted from communism: “I want him [his young son] to understand that evil is NOT something that can be condescended to, waved aside or smiled away, for it is not merely an uninvited guest, but lies coiled in foro interno [that is] at home with good within ourselves. EVIL CAN ONLY BE FOUGHT [!]” (Whittaker Chambers, Witness, 1952).

  9. “ Those beginning steps must be completed by a reform of the process by which potential bishops are identified. That reform should include the input of knowledgeable, shrewd, and discrete lay men and women; and in that process of identifying the bishops of the future, it must be made clear to priests that complete honesty is expected of them in evaluating a brother priest’s fitness for the episcopate.”

    That is like getting members of the SS to police the SS, in order to rein in members of the SS. The hierarchy, from the papacy down, cannot be trusted to police itself. It must be policed by outsiders, not by members of the club. Has Weigel not heard of conflict of interest ?

    “ That ought not diminish the shame Catholics will feel over the McCarrick affair,…”

    Catholics are not the criminals here – they are the victims. Victim-blaming is a detestable practice.

  10. I can’t stand it anymore. The Pope T John Paul II The Great juggernaut has become insufferable, and Weigel is its chief architect. Whatever happened, John Paul II was very much involved an an epic fail. It was his fault because managing the Cardinals was his job. Not jetting around the world, posing for photos, or even writing encyclicals. He was supposed to pastor pastors. And yet we got Maciel, McCarrick, and Schonborn, among many others. I have wanted to venerate him, like so many others, but it has become increasingly impossible. His Vatican was every bit as problematic as was Trump’s White House. Both accomplished good things, but were an unholy mess. Weigel here sounds like Kellyanne Conway.

    • Even taken at face value, this whitewash report radically undercuts the “santo subito” canonization of John Paul II and cries out for its re-examination. The office of Cardinal-Archbishop of Washington, D.C. is perhaps without question the single most important cardinalatial see in the entire modern world. What sort of “saint” negligently or recklessly ignores repeated highly credible reports that the prime candidate for the see is a notorious and inveterate sodomite? And this horrendous error of judgment only one among many horrendous errors of judgment, including Maciel, Daneels, Marx, and of course Bergoglio himself.

  11. The idea that Pope Francis knew nothing, and “acted promptly” when he became aware of accusations against McCarrick when credible accusations became known (as the report states) is absurd. Firstly, Bishop Steven Lopes, one of the youngest prelates in the Church, stated that he was aware of McCarrick reputation, and anyone who said they didn’t is lying. Secondly, Francis has never been tough on sexual abusers his entire life. In fact his protection of Grassi, Inzoli, Zanchetta and Pena Parra shows him to be the exact opposite. And he made McCarrick’s former Auxiliary Bishop, who shared a home with the homopredator for six years, a Cardinal and Camaralengo.

  12. I get the sense that the way McCarrick rose to the top was that most of the hierarchy just didn’t think sodomy (with adults) was all that bad. Certainly they did not view / treat it as a “sin that cries to heaven for vengeance.” Given that outlook, the rumors probably caused most of them to say “Meh, so what? Why should that disqualify someone?” Their biggest concern probably was not the moral depravity but the potential for scandal – or rather, for “bad press.” There was also a failure to realize / acknowledge that – at least as concerns Catholic clergy – a homosexual tendency also frequently includes a preference for underage boys.

  13. Here is the smoking gun: according to “this Vatican Report (however much you can believe people who tend to not always tell “ the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth), just taking this Report at nothing more than face-value, this Vatican group says “the system” decided against McCarrick, and then McCarrick intervened and appealed to JP2, and then JP2 over-turned the original decision, and promoted McCarrick.

    So on its face, (whatever merit this Vatican can be given) this report indicates Personal Failure of Leadership by JP2.

    This is the VERY OPPOSITE of George Weigel’s narrative.

    1st – As narrated in the Vatican Report, Pope John Paul II first decided against the promotion of McCarrick, on the unanimous written advice of Cardinal O’Connor of NY, the head of Congregation for Bishops in Rome, and the Papal Nuncio at the time, who all stated separately that the promotion was NOT recommended.

    2nd – McCarrick found out (somehow) that O’Connor himself warned against McCarrick, so McCarrick sent a personal letter to JP2 declaring his innocence.

    3rd – on the basis of that letter from McCarrick, JP2 restarted the evaluation process, and leaned the inquiry toward inquiring as to whether the accumulated information in the negative about McCarrick’s behavior might be re-evaluated as “unfounded.”

    4th – the Vatican Report states that the final decision of John Paul II, reversing his original judgment against McCarrick, was made despite specially by-passing the requirement of a review and “no objection” by the Congregation for the Faith. The second irregular process was “mid-wifed” by Cardinal Sodano the Secretary of State, and now Cardinal Batista Re, then “the substitute” Secretary of State, who in the second decision managed the irregular process performed under control of the Secretariat of State, and not the Congregation for Bishops.

    IN SHORT – according to this Vatican Report, the normal process first used rendered a judgment against McCarrick, and McCarrick personally intervened, and John Paul II then followed an abnormal process, by-passing the regular process, giving a new irregular review process over to the Secretariat of State, which, enablied JP2 to overturn the original decision and give the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington See to McCarrick.

    The Vatican Report narrates THE VERY OPPOSITE of a “SYSTEM FAILURE” as insisted by George Weigel.

    Instead: The Vatican Report indicates a personal failure to follow proper procedure by Pope John Paul II.

    This is all of.course supposing that you can believe Cardinal Sidano and Cardinal Batista Re and the members of the Secretariat of State, whonunder aparolin and Francis, resurrected McCarrick and used him to seal the Secret China Accord.

    NONE of the above, including Mr. Weigel’s spin, builds any confidence whatsoever.

    But this much seems to be undeniable: the original decision by the regular process on McCarrick was NO. But that answer was unacceptable. So they did what they wanted, and violated the regular process.

  14. Weigl has written another deeply informed article, rich in research and thoughtfulness. Many DID know! I knew and am a mere layman from Toronto. I saw atrocious naked photos of McCarrick. The Bishops, priests , seminarians, countless lay people and the abused all knew. Many turned a blind eye. McCarrick is a perfect narcissist. They can fool anyone, and lying is how they survive. The McCarrick Report does not do justice to Francis’ inaction.. perhaps and likely that was deliberate. There is much more to this story. For example, the IVE community that McCarrick ordained is a strange disorganized community and no argentine bishop would ordain their candidate. I was in that Fulton sheen seminary. Only McCarrick would ordain them, having a cottage right beside many young and very vulnerable young men. I was there. It wasn’t about the IVE being just called to serve the hispanics. That wasn’t even being done. I was there. Some of the ‘men’ in that community were a mere 16 and 18 years old, with problems. Lots more to this lurid story. Gay predation has yet to be called out, no likely coming from P.Francis, and it will ransack the Church, as it has all others. That problem is far from over. Bishops and others have done evrything to protect gays and their activities, and indeed, they listen to no one who informs; they disdain you. I’ve been there. Great work , George!

  15. One important fallout of this whole mess that is not discussed, but evident in the comments, is growing distrust of the Catholic leadership structure (bishops, cardinals and the vatican) by many faithful catholics. Here in Chicago Area, I do not know what to make of the Cardinal. This is sad!

  16. Also, the corrupt Secretary of State Parolin continues his contemptuous practice of “not telling the whole truth,” and gives himself away by saying that he never employed McCarrick as “an official diplomatic agent.” You’re too clever for your own brief “Your Eminence.”

    And on that note Pontiff Francis, why should we put any trust in a man who you just threw under the bus as unworthy of trust in financial matters?

    Oh what a tangled web you weave…when first you practice to deceive…

    Now you should all resign.

  17. I listen for the dog which did not bark. How could a moral titan, like JPII let things slide, with McCarrick and Law, both occurring about the same time, late 1990s, early 2000s? I pose a possibility and request those, whose expertise is greater, to criticize.

    I have known people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease. The common side effect of the neurological medicines is a gradual decline in the higher facilities, until little mental capability is left. Hard decisions are impossible, the penetrating mind is gone. JPII may have been a saint but his cross was different; his suffering lingered. This would profoundly influence his friend and successor to quietly put down the power when he sensed that his faculties were in decline. The pieces seem to fit. No decision is sometimes the worst decision.

    If this is valid, there was a system failure, to protect the church from human frailty. Why did some courageous leader(s) not confront the disaster? Is every body a buracrat? The US altered its Constitution to handle a leader in decline. Does the Vatican need an Article 25 for the boss?

  18. No smoking gun? The synopses I have read so far appear to be damning reports of moral failure of some of the bishop-members and perhaps the entire council of the USCCB.

  19. There are but a few (one?) replies from women, so please allow a different perspective from a woman and mother of two, and wife of one.

    When “Mother 1” was witness to her two sons seated on the lap of Mr McCarrick, massaging their inner thighs, and wrote her trove of letters to clergy in her Archdiocese, it should have immediately raised an alarm. Five of them. As the letters were penned anonymously, out of fear of reprisal, it hindered follow up. Add to this mother’s pain the pain she must have felt when her spouse did not support her thinking and could not acknowledge the horror in front of his very eyes. So very sad.

    When the Mother Superior raised her concern regarding Mr Mccarrick, she was written off as someone who was merely out for money.

    The first whistleblower was a woman, not listened to. Had someone pursued, somehow, her accusations, none of us would be here having this discussion. Women have a place at the Church table, whether they are of a religious order or not. Listen to them. Our perspectives, our insights, our intuition are different from men. Listen to us when we come forward with our views. Listen to us, please.

    The sooner the Church realizes that women are a necessary, integral and important part of a conversation, and maybe even a long sought solution, the more fruitful those conversations will be and the more clear and concise, the solution.

    Thank you.

    • Your point on Mother 1 is insightful and may reinforce the concept of a system failure. All subordinates must understand that an unsigned letter carries no weight to a decision maker. Pope JPII had experience with communists who attempted to destroy good priests with this technique, lies.
      However the hard eye should be placed on a husband – father who permitted his son to be assaulted. A broken jaw and lost teeth might have ended a generation of horror. Ditto for McCarrick’s supervisor who read the letter.

      The Marine Corps knows how to handle this problem, lots of pain. Our leaders have abandoned the struggle against evil; most bishops are soft, grossly overweight. The RC church has a distinct lack of disciplined men in positions of authority; strong men who would protect mothers who come to them with serious organizational problems.

  20. I don’t know all the particulars of who knew what about McCarrick — and, frankly, I don’t care to know them.

    It is enough to say that this scandal on top of all the other scandals — including most recently the USCCB congratulating the second quote-unquote “Catholic” US president — illustrates how debauched and degenerate our Church leadership has become. The stench has spread all around the world — from DC, to Rome, to Beijing, to Chicago.

    Clearly, as samton indicated, too many of our bishops are technocrats who focus on administrative hobnobbery rather than the care and protection of their flocks.

    By contrast, Jesus had contempt for their god, inertia, and refused to worship at its altar of efficiency/practicality/ROI.

    The moneylenders need to be driven out of the temple once again.

    We are in desperate need of another, simpler, truer-hearted kind of Francis.

  21. With the Vatican’s report on McCarrick just out, with the preeminent role of JPII in the whole saga, this piece by Weigel is just pathetic. This essay is a masterpiece of a spin to deflect blame from and exonerate JPII. Weigel rationalizes that it was a system failure. But the author shamelessly stops the flow of logic. Who was in charge of the system? In a very embarrassing way, the Vatican report on McCarrick deprecates JPII’s legacy. His epic failure to address the clergy sex abuse scandal when it erupted during his papacy is rightly highlighted. The sex abuse scandal now infecting the worldwide church surged during his papacy. These cases of predominantly homosexual predation by priests and bishops were not forcefully confronted by JPII because these somehow went against the big ideas of his pet theological projects. These were the over-hyped and near cult-like idealization of sexuality (e.g., Theology of the Body, Love and Responsibility, etc.) and of the ministerial priesthood (e.g., Pastores Dabo Vobis, Gift and Mystery, etc.). By turning a blind eye to these developments, the gay mafia in the ranks of the bishops and priests grew in numbers and power and enabled this scandal to explode and its consequent cover-up. JPII promoted the global icon of this scandal, Theodore McCarrick, not just once but five times: Auxiliary Bishop of New York, Bishop of Metuchen, Archbishop of Newark, Archbishop of Washington, and Cardinal. The Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi founder, Marcial Maciel Degollado, another icon of this scandal who preyed upon his seminarians and priests and sired children, was favored by JPII with a preferential treatment and called him “a model of heroic priesthood.” George Weigel, in his hagiographical biographies of JPII (Witness to Hope, Lessons in Hope), tried defending this epic papal failure by rationalizing that JPII was disinclined to humiliate others which led him to misjudge others, even among bishops and priests. Weigel is either or both a big liar and/or just blinded by his hagiographical obsession. JPII humiliated, even crushed, a lot of bishops, priests, theologians he judged not toeing the line (picture JPII openly scolding Ernesto Cardenal at the tarmac of Managua airport). Weigel’s hero should never have been hastily beatified and canonized.

    • “JPII humiliated, even crushed, a lot of bishops, priests, theologians he judged not toeing the line (picture JPII openly scolding Ernesto Cardenal at the tarmac of Managua airport)”.

      “[N]ot toeing the line”? Some lines ought to be toed. Ernesto Cardenal was a member of the Marxist/socialist Sandinista Party, AND Nicaragua’s first minister of culture (1979) And, therefore, was in violation of the Church’s prohibition of clerics actually serving in government positions.

      Evangelization around the world gets messed up when the line between Church and state is blurred to this degree, anywhere. In the United States, the pro-abortion Congressman Robert Drinan from Massachusetts, also a priest and a Jesuit, withdrew from office when instructed to choose between the priesthood or a political career (1980). For today, “picture” Fr. James Martin, SJ, serving in Congress and thumbing his nose at the Church in matters of morality, or simply posturing the Church in complex/controversial policy matters involving prudential judgment.

  22. George Weigel’s attempt to spin the report to somehow only condemn “the system” rather than the people managing it, is breathtaking, and will only serve to discredit Weigel as a damage-controller for an obviously corrupt ecclesiastical establishment. “Move along,” he tells us. “This is no one’s fault in particular, just a problem of the system, of a defective clerical culture.” Absurd! Systems and cultures are not subsistent entities — they have a subject, and the subject is the acting individual. Someone must take responsibility.

    His insistence that the report isn’t a whitewash piles incredibility on incredibility — does he really not know that the whole financial dimension of this scandal was left untreated by the report? Are we to think that money played no role in the immunity of Theodore McCarrick, who exercised a massive influence on fundraising in the Church, particularly in the USA? Are we really to believe that this was just a bunch of innocent mistakes, that no one in particular was guilty of covering up, that there should be no personal accountability for decades of sexual abuse of seminarians and minors?

    Weigel is right about the clerical caste system, but he ridiculously implies that only Poland and Latin America are suffering from a clericalist caste system today, as if many bishops in the USA and Europe don’t continue to sit behind a wall of bureaucracy, with no real contact with the laity and no real accountability to them, and as if the financial affairs of the Church do not continue to be hidden from the faithful. This was and is the terrible reality and must be dealt with.

    In short, this article is arguably a symptom of the very problem it pretends to address, written by an establishment insider with a big personal stake in the matter. Distressing!

  23. About 90 percent of the iceberg lies below the surface. Hence the term — tip of the iceberg. So it is with the Church sandals. McCarrick is but the tip. This report (YES, I HAVE A COPY AND HAVE STUDIED VARIOUS PARTS) is all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    And that is the trick, really. So we have much spilled ink, or what shall I say: the wringing of hands; the rending of vestments; the pointing of fingers; the pronouncements of platitudes; the soothing voice of some fork-tongued unworldly creature.

    Credibility is an attribute, once lost beneath the waves, is not easily raised from the depths again.

  24. What I miss here, just as in many comments/ articles on Mc Carrick is one crucial word;
    HOMOSEXUALITY. Mc Carrick belongs to the group of 86 percent of clergymen, some say even more, who have committed sex abuse in various forms against teenage boys and seminarians. That is, a vast majority of all victims are of male sex. And not children, although MSM and many Catholics, against their knowledge, against massive evidence, call this ” paedophilia “.
    Like every person with his/her faculties intact and believing in simple basic biological facts, I disagree to 100 percent with those in the Church, including at least one American Cardinal, who has voiced his private opinion that the sexual abuses of teenage boys and seminarians are not necessarily of a homosexual nature, I wish that Mr Weigel ( and most other writers) would express without any hesitation what is so tragically obvious to everyone with eyes and ears open to the truth; the wide spread homosexuality among Carholic clergy; priests Bishops and Cardinals, is the main root cause that many thousands of lives of the most innocent have been ruined. Life long suffering. Young seminarians
    full of enthusiasm and hope were brutally and cynically used by Mc Carrick. Parents, having raised their sons with much sacrifices, fostering a great love for the Church and for the priesthood, their trust gravely deceived and abused as well.
    While it is true that there will always be pathological liars and abusers in the Church,maybe the worst thing to come to grips with is the despicable cowardly surrender by almost everyone who knew about Mc Carrick. The pathological fear. The lack of sympathy for trusting teenage boy. The many priests who either left the seminaries in droves because of homosexual predators like Mc Carrick. The few victims who did try to make their voices heard, were ignored and sidestepped.
    I am convinced that Pope Benedict, a saintly and totally righteous man, thought that his restriction on Mc Carrick would be followed.I Goid pure and honest people are sometimes easier to deceive since they dont have darkness in their souls. It certainly looks as if both he and JPII were grieveoysky and cunningly deceived by many whom they thought they could trust. No doubt, Pope Benedict is a very saintly man who has devoted his whole life to serve Christ and His Church.
    As did St JPII. One must bear in mind that it is only in the past 18 years that the terrible phenomenon of sexual abuse is discussed openly. The shameful nature of this kind of abuse, JPII:s own holiness and background in Poland must have made it very difficult, not to say almost impossible, to believe in such utterly evil acts, especially by an ordained priest or a Bishop. There is no doubt in my mind that both he and Benedict were gravely deceived by many they thought they could rely on.
    Evil was facilitated by the many who saw and knew,over more than five decades, heard rumours of the abominable actions of this homosexual predator.
    Several journalists and others have pointed at something very central; it was not until the abuse of a minor came to light that the Vatican reacted. One American Cardinal even denied that the massive percentage of male a use victims had any link with homosexuality. (!) Also,he mentioned so called “consensual sex” among adults. In other words, he and not so few in the Church hierarchy,seem to support the idea that sex between a priest/ bishop/ Cardinal and a seminarian is fine as long as it can be considered ” consensual “. What about chastity in general then?
    Definitely not what I see anywhere in my Catechism, quite the contrary, chastity is praised and practiced homosexuality is called ” intrinsically evel”. Just as all kind of sexual activity outside of marriage is condemned.

  25. Please allow me to add one thing; the laity, as well, have their share in this shameful and devastating culture of looking the other way, abandoning the victims.
    They, too, were more interested in maintaining a good relationship with the clergy. Sadly,many among the laity are much too often prone to adulation and going along,under whatever circumstances.
    Clericalism among the laity is often a problem created by themselves.

  26. Finally I will give here a smoking gun from page 90 of the report. This concerns Monsignor Bottino’s testimony in the presnce of Bishops Smith, McHugh and McCarrick:

    “After everyone sat back down, Monsignor Bottino observed McCarrick turn towards and begin speaking to Bishops Smith and McHugh about the consecration. In the same moment, Bottino saw McCarrick move his right hand to the young cleric’s {redacted by PRC} area.

    According to Monsignor Bottino, Bishop McHugh “saw me looking down and so he too looked down.” In an interview, Bottino explained what happened next:

    No sooner had we looked down nearly simultaneously, than we looked up, this time simultaneously because McCarrick was talking. I remember seeing and looking at McHugh first and then looking at the young man, terrified. “

  27. Questions for Mr. Weigel: Do you think JPII suspected nothing? Why did he reverse his initial disinclination to appoint McCarrick to the DC see?

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