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McCarrick Report: American Catholics urge ‘truth and transparency’

November 10, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 10, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The release of the McCarrick Report Tuesday has been given a cautious welcome by lay American Catholics, who urged continued concern for the victims of sexual abuse and commitment to transparency by Church authorities.

The Vatican released its lengthy 461-page report on Nov. 10, detailing the Church’s institutional knowledge and decision-making on McCarrick over his decades as a priest, bishop, archbishop, and cardinal. He was laicized by Pope Francis in 2019 because of credible allegations of the sexual abuse of minors and adults.

In his years as a priest, bishop, and cardinal, McCarrick rose to the highest ranks of the Church, including leading the archdioceses of Newark and Washington. He also held influential positions at Catholic organizations including The Catholic University of America, where he was Chancellor, and the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. 

The president of The Catholic University of America, John Garvey, addressed the report in a letter to the university community on Tuesday.

“We offer our prayers and pastoral support for the survivors, that they and their families encounter healing and peace,” Garvey wrote. “And I recommit this University to addressing sex abuse in the Catholic Church with courage and tenacity.”

McCarrick had long-standing ties to Catholic University, first as a student, assistant chaplain, Dean of Students, and an administrator and fundraiser at the university between 1958 and 1965. He later served on the university’s Board of Trustees and as chancellor of the school while he was Archbishop of Washington from 2000 until 2006. The university bestowed an honorary degree on him in 2006.

When the Archdiocese of New York announced in 2018 a credible accusation of child sexual abuse had been made against McCarrick, “the news hit our University community close to home,” Garvey said. The university rescinded McCarrick’s honorary degree that year.

Some lay Catholics expressed their disbelief at the report’s revelations–particularly the lack of a canonical investigation into the allegations against McCarrick until 2018, despite decades of accusations against him.

“To me, one of the things that’s so hard to read, as a Catholic and as a lay person, is that so many innuendos or concerns were never followed up on,” Dr. Susan Timoney, pastoral theologian at The Catholic University of America, told CNA on Tuesday. 

“It’s unbelievable to think that the concern—any kind of concern of the kind of things going on in a seminary—wouldn’t be better investigated.”

Dr. Robert George, a law professor at Princeton University, said that the report does not adequately treat the matter of McCarrick’s proteges, or bishops and cardinals who attained significant positions in the Church because of McCarrick’s influence. 

“Are there influential and powerful leaders in the Church in America and in the curia in Rome who have their positions at least in part due to Theodore McCarrick’s influence?” George asked rhetorically. “Who are they? Why did McCarrick use his influence to advance their careers?”

But Catholics also pointed to progress the Church has made in dealing with clergy sex abuse, and said the report is a necessary first step toward greater transparency and accountability within the Church on the matter.

Timoney noted the universal establishment of diocesan child protection offices in the United States over the last two decades, as well as Pope Francis’ work to establish better accountability for accusations of misconduct against bishops worldwide. The report’s publication “does show a better commitment to transparency,” she said.  

In 2018, Catholic University launched its own special project unity to respond to the clergy abuse crisis as well as other relevant Church matters.

Stephen White, executive director of The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America, said that, while a single report could not undo the damage by McCarrick, “truth and transparency are necessary steps toward healing those wounds and repairing the trust that has been broken.”

White said that Catholics should manifest “a spirit of penance and humility” amid “our anger and pain at the injustices committed by our clergy, and the sense of betrayal brought about by shepherds who failed to protect the flock.”

As they read the painful revelations in the report, Catholics should not forget “all of the work that the Church does at the grassroots level” to serve people, Timoney said.  

“This isn’t the whole story of the Church,” she said, noting that “we are making a positive impact in a lot of peoples’ lives, day in and day out, through all of our ministries and agencies.”

McCarrick was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of New York in 1958 before becoming auxiliary bishop of New York in 1977. He then became bishop of the new Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, in 1981, before becoming Archbishop of Newark in 1986, and then Archbishop of Washington in 2001, where he was made a cardinal by Pope St. John Paul II.

In 2006, he submitted his letter of resignation at the age of 75, as required by the Church of all bishops at that age. 

After accusations that McCarrick had abused minors and seminarians over a period of years were made public in June 2018, Pope Francis ordered McCarrick to observe a life of prayer and penance and demanded his resignation from the College of Cardinals. 

McCarrick was laicized in 2019, following a canonical process at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which found him guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”


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McCarrick Report: What Cardinal O’Connor said in 1999

November 10, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Nov 10, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- The Vatican’s report on Theodore McCarrick released Tuesday includes a letter written by an American cardinal in 1999, who objected to McCarrick’s potential appointment to higher office, on the basis of existing allegations of misconduct, including incidents involving sharing a bed with seminarians at a New Jersey beach house.

On Oct. 28, 1999, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York wrote a letter to the U.S. apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, after the cardinal learned that McCarrick was under consideration to be appointed his successor as archbishop of New York. That letter was shared with Pope John Paul II shortly thereafter, the Vatican’s McCarrick Report states.

“With deep regret, I would have to express my own grave fears and those of authoritative witnesses cited above, that should Archbishop McCarrick be given higher responsibility in the United States, particularly if elevated to a Cardinatial See, seem[] sound reasons for believing that rumors and allegations about the past might surface with such an appointment, with the possibility of accompanying grave scandal and widespread adverse publicity,” O’Connor wrote.

He added that “while charity must prevail and the benefit of the doubt always given to the ‘accused,’ the good of souls and the reputation of the Church must be seriously considered and the potential for scandal given equally serious consideration.”

“I can not, therefore, in conscience, recommend His Excellency, Archbishop McCarrick for promotion to higher office, should this be the reason for your inquiry concerning him at this time. On the contrary, I regret that I would have to recommend very strongly against such promotion, particularly if to a Cardinatial See, including New York.”

O’Connor wrote in 1999 that authoritative sources had told him that stories about McCarrick frequently arranging for seminarians to visit a New Jersey beach house circulated in the dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, specifically that “the arrangement was for seven seminarians, six of whom shared the guestrooms and one of whom shared the bed with the Archbishop.”

He said that a key authority had informed him that he believed “that some problem did occur involving at least one person, perhaps a priest, and that Bishop Hughes handled that personally and secretly.”

O’Connor said that he had personally asked a priest psychologist of New York archdiocese to speak with the psychiatrist who was treating a priest involved.

“Both the priest psychologist and the psychiatrist seem convinced that the priests or priests (sic) in treatment were victimized, willingly or unwillingly, in their inappropriate relationship with the then Bishop McCarrick, while Bishop of Metuchen,” O’Connor wrote in the letter. He added that he did not find these findings “definitely persuasive,” but could not dismiss their findings “because of the gravity of the allegations.”

O’Connor also raised concerns about McCarrick’s “seemingly incessant need to travel outside of the archdiocese to different parts of the world,” saying that he questioned whether there could be  “any relationship between this seeming need to travel outside the archdiocese and his apparently having put his former alleged inclinations behind him.”

Cardinal O’Connor led the Archdiocese of New York from 1984 until his death on May 3, 2000. He was a major figure of American Catholicism and an outspoken defender of the faith and Catholic moral teaching.

The report notes that O’Connor conducted “the first known inquiry related to concerns over McCarrick’s conduct.” In the early 1990s, O’Connor investigated anonymous complaints against McCarrick ahead of a potential papal visit to Newark. He concluded that allegations of possible misconduct with adults would not present an issue if the pope were to visit Newark.

In 1997, McCarrick was being considered to lead the Archdiocese of Chicago. While he was generally praised as a strong candidate, O’Connor questioned whether he would provide the “firmness necessary to ‘compensate’ for the prevailing permissiveness” following the tenure of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the report said. However, it added that O’Connor “admitted” that McCarrick could be effective in addressing theological abuses. McCarrick was ultimately not selected for the role.

The 1999 letter from O’Connor is included in the 449-page McCarrick Report on pages 131-140. The report indicates that “it is reasonable to infer” that Bishop James T. McHugh, the former auxiliary bishop of Newark, and Bishop Edward T. Hughes, the bishop emeritus of Metuchen, were O’Connor’s sources of information regarding these allegations.

O’Connor wrote that John Paul II had made clear to him in a meeting early in the summer of 1999 that he was considering appointing McCarrick to another diocese, potentially as O’Connor’s successor in New York.

After this, O’Connor expressed concern to the nuncio Montalvo in late July, saying that he was aware of “some elements of a moral nature that advised against” McCarrick’s consideration. Montalvo requested that O’Connor put his concerns in writing.

O’Connor’s letter is dated Oct. 28, only weeks after the cardinal’s release from hospital following surgery to remove a brain tumor. O’Connor died from this tumor the following May.

In the letter, O’Connor wrote that he was concerned by events related to him by “absolutely impeccable authorities as occurring in the Archdiocese of Newark during this past year.”

Among these is that “after Archbishop McCarrick was appointed as Ordinary, it was said that he would frequently invite male visitors for dinner and to stay overnight. Usually they shared a bed, although there were sufficient guestrooms … This did not become known outside the house, but it was a cause of concern for those who live there.”

Cardinal O’Connor also recommended to the nuncio several people that he could follow up with for further information regarding McCarrick, including Bishop McHugh and the attorney of the Archdiocese of Newark, Thomas Durkin, noting that the lawyer had “spoken with him [McCarrick] very forthrightly about rumors and allegations cited above.”

Upon receiving the letter, Montalvo forwarded it to the Congregation for Bishops and to the Secretariat of State. Archbishop Giovanni Battista Re, at that time the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, informed Pope John Paul II of Cardinal O’Connor’s letter, according to the report.

Montalvo left it to Re to “inform the Holy Father as to the matter in the manner you deem appropriate,” according to a handwritten note sent to Re.

O’Connor’s letter was sent the day after a letter sent by Nuncio Montalvo to the Congregation for Bishops describing Washington Cardinal James Aloysius Hickey’s endorsement of McCarrick as his first choice for the New York see, and acknowledging concern from Cardinal Bernard Francis Law that “vague allusions are enough to damage the position of a person.”

At the request of John Paul II, in response to the allegations recorded in O’Connor’s letter, separate but “substantively identical letters” were sent to Bishops Vincent Breen and Edward Hughes of Metuchen, Bishop James McHugh of Rockville Centre, and Bishop John Smith of Trenton on May 12, 2000, asking for the truth about McCarrick.

“Three of the four American bishops provided inaccurate and incomplete information to the Holy See regarding McCarrick’s sexual conduct with young adults,” the report concluded.

The bishops presenting false information were Hughes, Smith, and McHugh.

The letter of Bishop Hughes, who succeeded McCarrick in Metuchen, told the Holy See that: “I have no factual information that would clearly indicate any moral weakness on the part of Archbishop McCarrick.”

Hughes’ letter dismissed the accounts of some priests who had reported to him being molested or abused by McCarrick, even when, in one case, a psychologist affirmed that the priest had been McCarrick’s victim. Hughes noted moral lapses on the part of the priests accusing McCarrick, while dismissing their claims against the archbishop.

In fact, the bishop’s letter did not mention at all some incidents of sexual abuse or coercion that had been reported to him by Metuchen priests, according to the report.

While in O’Connor’s letter written months before, O’Connor wrote that Hughes, then bishop of Metuchen, had handled the problem by the New Jersey beach house “personally and secretly.”

O’Connor added: “I, myself, recall talking with Bishop Hughes by telephone very privately, regarding this same case, which did in fact involve at least one priest, and perhaps two. As I recall, both where (sic) in psychiatric treatment.”

Smith, who had been an auxiliary bishop in Newark, told the nuncio that “I have never heard anyone make a substantiated accusation of immoral behavior against Archbishop McCarrick nor have I any evidence of ‘serious moral weakness shown by Archbishop McCarrick.’”

But according to the report, Smith himself had in 1990 witnessed McCarrick groping the groin of a young cleric during a dinner with several officials from the archdiocese of Newark. Smith’s letter made no mention of that incident.

McHugh, then auxiliary bishop of Newark, was present at the same 1990 dinner and also saw the groping, but he wrote in his letter that he “never witnessed any improper behavior on the part of Archbishop McCarrick.”

The misinformation presented by those bishops was part of what may have informed Pope John Paul II’s decision to appoint McCarrick archbishop of Washington in November 2000, the report said.