A man accused Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of abusing him for nearly 20 years from the age of 11. The man, identified as James, said the cardinal had been a close family friend known as “Uncle Teddy”. McCarrick was removed from public ministry after an allegation he groped a 16-year-old was found to be credible. James told the New York Times that, when he heard the news, he knelt down and “thanked God that I am not alone and it is going to be OK.”
What commentators are saying
“Put simply, the report is a nuclear bomb,” wrote Rocco Palmo at his blog Whispers in the Loggia. He called it the “apparent epitaph of one of American Catholicism’s towering figures of the late 20th and early 21st centuries”.
He drew attention to a statement from Cardinal Joseph Tobin that the US bishops’ conference would “discuss this tragedy” at their plenary meeting to ensure “high standards of respect by bishops, priests and deacons for all adults”. The probable result, said Palmo, would be the creation of a new entity to draft a new charter. Fr James Martin, writing at America, asked how the allegations were hushed up for so long. He noted that one priest, Fr Boniface Ramsey OP, told the nuncio about rumours of seminarians being molested. Fr Ramsey was asked to send a letter to the Vatican but never received a reply. Why? “As we saw in the clergy child abuse crisis, the tragic tendency was for Church leaders to trust the person they knew. Bishop McCarrick may have been better known to the nuncio than was Fr Ramsey,” Fr Martin wrote.
Matthew Walther, writing at The Week, said the “brain-wormed clericalism that made the sexual assault of James possible must disappear – forever”. He urged Catholics to stop giving to bishops’ annual appeals and to demand transparency in weekly bulletins about abuse cases and settlements. Walther wrote that although “I believe that the Church was founded by the apostle St Peter at the behest of Christ Himself, I also believe that it was for many years and will for many more still remain a cesspool.”
✣Teenagers to overrule parents on sex education
Parents will lose their veto on sex education once their children turn 15, according to the draft guidelines. The plans, unveiled by Education Secretary Damian Hinds, are likely to become compulsory in 2020. They will allow children to request sex education for the three terms up to their 16th birthday, overruling parents’ wishes.
Why was it under-reported
The society for the Protection of the Unborn (SPUC) condemned the plans, calling them a “slap in the face for parents”. But the Catholic Education Service (CES), an agency of the bishops’ conference, supported them. One reason is that keeping a parental veto past 15 may not be lawful: legal precedent tends to favour the wishes of (older) teenagers on things like medical treatment. Another, the CES said, is that the Church accords children aged 14 and above a level of maturity – they can become godparents and are likely to have been confirmed.
What will happen next?
A 12-week consultation is underway and SPUC is urging supporters to make their concerns known. But the CES claims little will, in fact, change after sex education becomes mandatory in 2020. Catholic schools already follow their own curriculum, which is held up as model by the Government, and the number of
children who are withdrawn is small. Last year it was 100 (out of 900,000 pupils), 34 in secondary school. This, the CES says, suggests five cases a year where a 15-year-old might overrule their parents.
✣The week ahead
Bishop Peter Comensoli is being installed as head of the Archdiocese of Melbourne on Wednesday. It is Australia’s largest diocese as well as the site of court proceedings against Cardinal George Pell on abuse allegations, which he denies. Bishop Comensoli is only 54, and is therefore likely to be a major figure in the Australian Church until at least 2039.
The film Paul, Apostle of Christ is now available to view in Britain. It is being released only on DVD. A rare screening will be held at the Vue cinema in Stirling on Wednesday evening organised by St Columba’s Glasgow, a youth group.
The St John Paul Walking Pilgrimage begins on Thursday. The pilgrimage, which started in 2006, is a 50-mile walk over three days. It begins at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, and finishes at Walsingham, Norfolk. Pilgrims may want airbeds: the nights are spent sleeping on the floor, first in the parish hall in Bury St Edmunds and later in halls and gyms along the way.