Pope Francis accepted the resignation from the College of Cardinals of Theodore McCarrick after two allegations that he sexually abused children. The former Archbishop of Washington has been ordered to live “a life of prayer and penance” until the outcome of a canonical trial. McCarrick, who is 88, had renounced public ministry in June after the Archdiocese of New York concluded that an allegation that he abused a teenager decades ago was credible.
What commentators are saying
The Vatican “made history” with its announcement of McCarrick’s resignation, said John Allen at Crux. “It’s the first time an American cardinal has ever renounced his red hat, and it’s the first time anywhere in the world [that a cardinal] has exited the College altogether facing accusations of sexual abuse,” he wrote. It was, he said, the “most tangible confirmation to date” of Pope Francis’s zero tolerance policy towards abusers.
Rocco Palmo, writing at his blog Whispers in the Loggia, recalled two cardinals who kept their titles amid allegations of sexual misconduct. One was Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who renounced “the rights and privileges” of the cardinalate, but not his title, over claims relating to adults. The other was Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer, who, after multiple allegations of child abuse in the 1990s, “quickly retired as archbishop of Vienna and died in seclusion a decade later with the scarlet intact”.
Ross Douthat at the New York Times called for the Church to hire a “special prosecutor” to investigate “who knew what and when”. He wrote: “Two decades after McCarrick should have been removed from his offices, defrocked and handed over to the civil authorities, he was instead wielding remarkable influence in the Church.” Many “important figures” in Rome and the US must have known about the allegations. “Someone, or indeed many someones, needs to be held accountable for this disaster.” Only through a “public and expansive accounting of the facts”, Douthat wrote, can the Church emerge with its moral authority intact.
✣Nearly 50 seminarians allege scandal at seminary
A joint letter from 48 seminarians claimed that “active homosexuality” was rife at a seminary in the Honduran capital in Tegucigalpa. The unsigned text was sent to seminary authorities and then the country’s bishops. On Monday, the bishops’ conference gave a firm response, saying that the atmosphere described in the letter “does not exist”.
Why was it under-reported
The text is unsigned and the bishops did not make it public. The letter was sent in June: it only became a story after the resignation of 57-year-old Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle of Tegucigalpa, who has been accused of sexual misconduct with seminarians. The American National Catholic Register claimed it had evidence of seminarians sharing gay pornography on WhatsApp. One of the whistleblowers told the paper that many seminarians were “scandalised” and that some were thinking of leaving.
What will happen next?
Bishop Guy Charbonneau of Choluteca told the Register that bishops were investigating the allegations. “Each bishop has to deal with it by interviewing the seminarians from their own diocese,” he said. However, the bishops’ conference issued a statement last week denying the claims: “With all certainty and truth, we affirm that there does not exist, has not existed, nor should exist in the seminary an atmosphere such as the one presented in the news report.” They said the letter had caused “pain and scandal”.
✣The week ahead
The two shrines pilgrimage will begin in Scotland tomorrow. Pilgrims will walk for three days, starting at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, and ending at the ruins of St Andrew’s Cathedral 50 miles away. A traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated each day. The pilgrimage is organised by the Confraternity of St Ninian to pray for the reconversion of Scotland.
Argentina’s Senate will vote on a bill that would legalise abortion on Wednesday. The bill, approved by Congress, would allow for abortion on demand until the 14th week of pregnancy. Huge crowds have protested against it.
Tomorrow marks 480 years since the dissolution of Walsingham Priory. An ecumenical vespers will be held at Walsingham’s Anglican shrine followed by a procession and act of reparation amid the ruins. The date comes on the medieval feast of Our Lady of Compassion and the vespers will be the first time the feast’s liturgy will have been prayed since the Reformation.