The big news out of the Vatican on Saturday was Pope Francis’s addition of three titles for Our Lady to the Litany of Loreto. “This is,” a Dominican friend of mine noted, “actually pretty big news.” He’s not wrong.
A very poor Catholic, I do not love Our Lady as I should, and I am certainly grateful of the chance to venerate her in her Lauretan Litany as Mother of Mercy, Mother of Hope, and Solace of Migrants.
Saturday also marked the second anniversary of Theodore Edgar “Uncle Ted” McCarrick’s spectacular fall from grace, and the six hundred twenty-third day since the Holy See undertook to review the McCarrick files and publish its findings. So far, the Vatican has failed to honor its promise.
I’m sure Our Lady does not mind the rather infelicitous coincidence. Some of the weaker brethren, however, might come to the no doubt mistaken conclusion that our chief ruler in the faith on earth is using her as a red herring. That would be very unhappy, indeed.
À propos of the McCarrick report: I’ll be looking for what’s not in it, when it finally does drop.
Even if the Vatican decides to release the report tomorrow; even if they give not only a distillation of the findings, but a substantial documentary support; the thing itself has been too long delayed and the method of investigation too much a secret, for the report to be trustworthy.
If the Vatican were intent on getting to the bottom of the affair, they’d be announcing indictments and trial dates. They’re not. As things stand, we don’t even know precisely who conducted the investigation, or the precise remit under which they conducted it.
The CDF’s expedited administrative process involved interviews with some of McCarrick’s victims, but there are still a whole host of queries. Have the investigators interrogated McCarrick? Have investigators acquired files from relevant off-site depositories? Have dioceses cooperated? Opened secret archives? Has any material been referred to civil authorities? If so, what? If not, are we to believe that nothing emerged, which secular authorities might find helpful?
Did Church investigators work with police in New York? Metuchen? Newark? Washington, D.C.? Were any complaints made in Rome? Vatican City State?
In one sense, we already know the answers to some of those queries and already have plenty of reason to suspect we won’t be getting answers to others. The 6 October 2018 communiqué from the Vatican promised “to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively,” but the subject of the investigation was to be “the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick.” That is, in essence, a promise to conduct an internal review of documents on file. Thanks, I guess?
I remember where I was on the day the McCarrick news broke. I was either on a plane out of Rome and bound for New York, or I was getting ready to board one. It was supposed to be the first extended time off I’d had in nearly a decade, and I wasn’t checking email. I was looking forward to spending three months between the pool, the grill, and the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee. The short version of the rest of that story is: It turned into a “working vacation” pretty quickly.
It took me a couple of weeks to get my head around what had happened.
“When I have heard it said that the US bishops have made the part of the Catholic Church in their charge the safest place in the world for children,” I wrote for the Catholic World Report, once I’d finally figured out what I wanted to say found the way to put it into printable prose, “I have inwardly—sometimes privately, but never before now publicly—quipped, ‘Someone needs to tell them that’s not a selling point.’ At best, it’s only a little better than saying: The Catholic Church: Now abusing fewer children.”
These days, I wonder what the children of Cincinnati’s St. Ignatius Loyola school think of the bishops’ efforts?
In any case, I ended that piece for CWR, saying that the crisis of clerical sexual abuse is cultural, and more precisely a crisis of leadership culture. “[T]he bishops have lost their way,” I wrote, “and they have brought the whole Church with them into a quagmire.” Then as now, the only way out of the morass is through, and the only way through is for the bishops—all of them and every one of them, starting with the one in Rome—to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I stand by that.
Christopher Altieri is Rome bureau chief and international editor of the Catholic Herald.
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