The Archdiocese of Washington has confirmed that seminarians were permitted to serve as assistants to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick while the archbishop was being investigated for the alleged sexual abuse of a teenager.
In 2011, McCarrick moved from a parish rectory to a house adjacent to the seminary of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE), a religious order, in Chillum, Md., within the Washington archdiocese.
According to two former IVE seminarians on campus at the time, McCarrick lived in a separate house on the grounds, which he paid for himself, or at least arranged to have purchased for him.
The IVE initially assigned McCarrick a priest to serve as secretary for him once he was living on the property. Sources confirm that the priest was assigned to live in the house with McCarrick.
Archdiocesan records confirm that priests were given this assignment, and a spokesman told CNA it is likely the archdiocese provided some financial support for the role.
Former IVE seminarians told CNA that McCarrick made significant demands of staff and formators. CNA was told, for example, that despite the austere lifestyle encouraged by the order, McCarrick had his own VIP menu served to him in the refectory, regardless of what the priests and seminarians were eating.
Local formators and superiors of the IVE were, according to CNA’s sources within the order, unhappy with the arrangement, but recognized that the liberal-minded McCarrick functioned as a sort of informal patron for the order, despite its more traditional leanings. McCarrick frequently ordained the order’s priests, in Washington and abroad, and helped them to navigate criticisms from South American bishops, including Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, who became Pope Francis.
The Institute of the Incarnate Word was founded in 1984 in Argentina by Fr. Carlos Miguel Buela. Buela retired in 2010 amid suspicion of sexual misconduct. In 2016, the Vatican affirmed the veracity of allegations that Buela engaged in sexual improprieties with adult seminarians of his community; the priest was forbidden by the Vatican from contact with members of the IVE, and from appearing in public.
McCarrick’s assistance has been reported to have been especially important to the order as allegations against Buela came to light. But sources say that help came with a price. One source characterized McCarrick’s attitude toward the group as “If you’re grateful, you’ll shut up.”
Eventually, the order withdrew the priest secretary assigned to McCarrick, citing the need for ordained priests to serve in active ministry. In his place, McCarrick arranged to have two IVE seminarians, known as “bedels” in the order, assigned to him.
These seminarians lived with McCarrick in his on-campus house and were responsible for driving him around Washington, accompanying him on trips, and essentially functioning as his personal staff.
It was not, according to seminarians who spoke with CNA, a prized assignment, and the bedels assigned to McCarrick were rotated each year.
One former IVE seminarian told CNA that complaints were raised about McCarrick’s demands – although none of them were sexual in nature – and said the rector warned seminarians to try to remain detached from McCarrick’s “worldly” tastes.
Some of the seminarians were, according to sources, obliged by McCarrick to take him on trips to see friends, including to a beach house, though it is not clear if this was the now much-reported house in New Jersey.
On at least one occasion, McCarrick obliged his bedels to accompany him to a casino, an incident which triggered strong complaints from the seminarians themselves and from their formators, who raised the matter with the order’s leadership in Rome.
The Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that the archdiocese did not regularly monitor McCarrick’s travel arrangements, and said it was unaware of the extent of the IVE seminarians’ involvement with McCarrick.
McCarrick eventually moved from the IVE property to a retirement home run by an order of religious sisters.
Archdiocesan spokesman Ed McFadden told CNA that McCarrick moved from the IVE campus for health reasons sometime in early 2017. However, a former senior IVE official told CNA that in the summer of 2016, Wuerl told the order he wanted McCarrick to leave his house on the seminary campus.
The source said this was communicated by the Archdiocese of Washington to the seminary rector and the provincial superior of the order. The source, who had first-hand knowledge of the event, said that Wuerl had previously been very “hands off” about McCarrick’s stay with the IVE, until the summer of 2016, when the IVE was told that Wuerl wanted McCarrick to be “less active and more retired” and to keep a “lower profile.”
The Archdiocese of Washington would not confirm the intervention but said that any discussion in the summer of 2016 between the IVE and the Archdiocese of Washington would have concerned McCarrick’s failing health.
A source familiar with the case told CNA on Aug. 25 that Wuerl was informed in the summer of 2017 that McCarrick was being investigated in New York for an allegation of sexual abuse. The source said that Wuerl communicated directly with McCarrick at that time, encouraging him to withdraw from public ministry. Based on McCarrick’s subsequent travel records and engagements, this request was ignored.
Two IVE seminarians remained assigned to McCarrick after this notification, with the knowledge of the Archdiocese of Washington, until late June 2018, when the Archdiocese of New York publicly announced a credible allegation that McCarrick sexually abused a teenager in the 1970s. Reports subsequently emerged that McCarrick had allegedly engaged for decades in sexually coercive and abusive misconduct with seminarians and priests.
While IVE seminarians did not continue to live with McCarrick following his move, they were still responsible for meeting his daily staffing requirements and traveling with him.
The Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that the IVE was informed of the allegation against McCarrick as soon as it was deemed credible, in June 2018.
McCarrick’s arrangement with the IVE, including the assignment of two seminarians to live with him and act as his personal staff, appears highly irregular in the light of the restrictions Archbishop Carlo Viganò claims were imposed on him by Pope Benedict XVI.
CNA previously reported a meeting in which McCarrick was ordered by papal nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi to leave a different seminary where he had been living. McCarrick moved subsequently into a parish, and from there he moved to the IVE property.
Despite evidence that the archdiocese approved renovations to the parish rectory for McCarrick, and the IVE’s reports that Wuerl intervened to move McCarrick from that property, CNA has been repeatedly told by the Archdiocese of Washington that “Archbishop McCarrick typically made his own housing arrangements and did not directly involve the Archdiocese of Washington.”
Wuerl has also denied being informed of the restrictions reportedly placed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI, and in July denied being aware of rumors about McCarrick’s sexual behavior before the New York investigation began.