Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington, DC, whom Pope Francis has dismissed from the clerical state as punishment for sexual abuse of minors and adults, will continue to live at the friary in Salina, Kansas, where he moved in September of last year.
The Diocese of Salina released a statement on Saturday saying: “Mr McCarrick will continue to reside at the St Fidelis Friary in Victoria until a decision of permanent residence is finalised.”
St Fidelis is operated by the Capuchin Franciscans. The statement also says Salina’s bishop, Bishop Gerald Vincke, “expresses his gratitude to the Capuchins at St. Fidelis Friary for their charity and compassion shown to all who seek refuge in the Church, as well as the remarkable people of Victoria for their mercy in this difficult situation.”
There is still no word on how the nearly 89-year-old former cleric will support himself, though he is reported to have independent financial means at his disposal. Significant questions remain regarding where McCarrick – an inveterate fundraiser – got his personal wealth, and how much of it he got during his more than six decades as a cleric.
Pope Francis reduced Mr McCarrick to the lay state last week, after nearly two years of investigations and proceedings that began in New York – where McCarrick was ordained – and eventually made their way to the Vatican.
A communiqué from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which conducted the canonical proceedings against Mr McCarrick, reported on Saturday morning that the CDF found the former Cardinal and Archbishop of Washington, DC, guilty of “sins against the Sixth Commandment” – against chastity – with both minors and adults, and of the crime of solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession. The communique also stated the CDF found “abuse of power” to have been an aggravating factor in McCarrick’s guilt.
The CDF communiqué said Mr McCarrick was first found guilty on January 11, and that he presented a recourse, which the Ordinary Session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith rejected on February 13, before officially notifying McCarrick of the decision on Friday, February 15.
The CDF communiqué also said Pope Francis has ruled that decision final and unappealable.
At noon on Saturday, the interim Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Alessandro Gisotti, appeared before reporters to read the CDF communiqué in several languages.
Speaking in English, Gisotti also said: “I remind you that the penal process in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can be one of two forms: judicial or extrajudicial.” Gisotti went on to say, “In this case of McCarrick it was the second form, in which all of his rights were respected.”
“I can affirm that McCarrick’s lawyers played an active role in the course of some of the interrogations,” Gisotti also added. “I underline that after this decree of the Congregation [for the Doctrine of the Faith], no recourse is possible,” he said.
Gisotti also quoted – in English – from a October 6, 2018 communiqué from the Press Office of the Holy See, which stated: “Both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for Bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.”
Theodore Edgar McCarrick was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of New York in 1958, by the late Francis Cardinal Spellman. McCarrick quickly rose through the ranks, becoming secretary to then-Archbishop of New York, Terence Cardinal Cooke, in 1971. One of the accusations against McCarrick – that he sexually assaulted a minor in St Patrick’s Cathedral – dates to his period of service as secretary to Cooke.
Pope St Paul VI made McCarrick an auxiliary bishop of New York in 1977. McCarrick went on to serve from 1981-1986 as the first bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, and then as Archbishop of Newark, before Pope St John Paul II made him Archbishop of Washington, DC, in 2001.
Rumours about McCarrick’s behaviour – especially with seminarians, whom he would “invite” to a now-notorious beach house for weekend getaways – were widespread. In November of the year 2000 – after the announcement of McCarrick’s appointment to Washington had been made, but before McCarrick had been installed – a professor at the Immaculate Conception Seminary of the Newark archdiocese, Fr Boniface Ramsey, (then a priest of the Dominican order) made a report of McCarrick’s behaviour to the Apostolic Nuncio to the US at the time, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.
The rumours were known to the Vatican no later than 2000, and possibly as early as 1994.
In that year, the man serving as the papal representative to the US at the time, Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan (now 93 and a cardinal in retirement) received a call from a person concerned the scheduled visit of John Paul II to Newark could cause scandal, owing to the rumours surrounding then Archbishop McCarrick. Caccivillan says he asked the then Archbishop of New York, Cardinal John O’Connor, to look into the matter. Cacciavillan told the Catholic News Service that O’Connor reported: “[T]here was no obstacle to the visit of the pope to Newark.”
The rumours regarding McCarrick persisted and spread for years. Benedict XVI accepted McCarrick’s resignation when McCarrick turned 75 – canon law requires a sitting bishop to tender his resignation upon reaching that age – and eventually imposed some restrictions on McCarrick in his retirement. The enforcement of those restrictions was spotty at best.
In June of last year, the Archdiocese of New York announced it had deemed “credible and substantiated” the aforementioned accusation against then Cardinal McCarrick – of abusing a minor in 1971 – and had turned the matter over to the Vatican. Several further accusers then came forward, and it emerged that several US dioceses where McCarrick once served had been involved in settling civil complaints against him stemming from McCarrick’s alleged misbehaviour with adults.
One of the witnesses against McCarrick was James Grein, who testified that McCarrick abused him for nearly two decades, starting when Grein was 11-years-old. Grein is the son of a man who had a close friendship with McCarrick. Then Fr McCarrick baptised Grein in 1958, two weeks after receiving priestly ordination. Grein also testified that McCarrick abused him during the Sacrament of Confession.
A former priest of the Diocese of Metuchen, Robert Ciolek, also came forward as one of McCarrick’s adult victims. “I trusted him, I confided in him, I admired him,” Ciolek told the New York Times in July of 2018. “I couldn’t imagine that he would have anything other than my best interests in mind.”
McCarrick’s disgrace led to intense and persistent public scrutiny.
Questions regarding who knew about Mr. McCarrick’s behaviour – or suspected, or should have known or suspected McCarrick of moral turpitude – persist, even in the wake of repeated denials from high-ranking prelates. The faithful and reporters alike asked how a man, whose reputation for perverse and lascivious wickedness was apparently so firmly established – could have risen so high and so easily through the ranks.
In the same communiqué of October 6, 2018, from which Gisotti read on Saturday, the Holy See promised it would:
“[I]n due course, make known the conclusions of the matter regarding Archbishop McCarrick. Moreover, with reference to other accusations brought against Archbishop McCarrick, the Holy Father has decided that information gathered during the preliminary investigation be combined with a further thorough study of the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick, in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.”
That promise came after repeated requests from senior Church leadership in the United States, for papal and Vatican assistance in investigating McCarrick, who helped many clerics rise during the course of his 60-year career, even as he received help from others. In September of 2018, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, travelled to Rome to ask Pope Francis to authorise an Apostolic Visitation of the US hierarchy – a request Pope Francis rejected.
The promise also followed the publication of a spectacular 11-page dossier by the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Carlo Maria Viganò, detailing a 30-year cover-up of McCarrick’s behaviour. That cover-up allegedly involved three popes, three secretaries of state, and dozens of other very senior Churchmen.
Pope Francis may consider he has made good on the promise “to make known the conclusions of the matter,” regarding the man who was styled “Archbishop McCarrick” when the promise was made. If so, the communication of those conclusions was rather short on detail. Questions regarding who knew what, and when they knew it – in the US hierarchy and at the Vatican – remain unanswered.
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