The Vatican will publish its Report on the Holy See’s institutional knowledge and decision-making process related to former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930–2017) – the “McCarrick Report” as it’s universally known.
Long-awaited, frequently delayed, oft mischaracterised as an “exhaustive” compte rendu, and regularly either ballyhooed as the final nail in the coffin of an aera best left to the worms or pooh poohed as another coat of institutional clerical(ist) whitewash: the McCarrick Report will be – whatever else it will be – part window, part reflection of institutional leadership culture and decision-making.
In a word: it will be the basis of institutional analysis – and it is going to take lots of time to sift and sort the information it contains.
Expect some senior Churchmen to fare better than others – Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz (Pope John Paul II’s long-time secretary) will not do well, I expect, and the long-serving Cardinal Angelo Sodano (Secretary of State for many years under John Paul II and into the reign of Benedict XVI) will not be treated as roughly as he might have been were he dead and buried – but be ready to take any blame explicitly laid solely at any man’s feet cum grana salis – and do not expect there to be villains cast or weapons of crime uncovered and put on display.
Though on first glance they might seem to be, these aren’t the Pentagon Papers – those were never meant to see the light of day, except through the academic filter of historians at perhaps a half-century’s remove from the events, the story of which they told – but the Oval Office transcripts from the Nixon White House. Only, there isn’t one Nixon, the cast of potential Haldemans and Ehrlichmans (and Liddys) is likely to be long but none of the actors a perfect fit, and anyway we already know more-or-less what the various principals knew and when they knew it.
In other words: What’s not in the report will be at least as interesting as what is in it – and while the official Vatican take(s) out of the gate will be interesting, they will be sauce not meat.
A good deal of information will likely be buried – not deliberately, but owing to the nature of the thing we’re getting – and sorting through that, connecting the dots without turning into the madman with dishevelled hair and the cigarette butt stuck to his lip while he stands at his corkboard and howls at the moon is going to be harder for some than for others among the faithful and in the chattering classes, but won’t be easy for anyone.
Don’t look for the “key pieces” of “evidence” that “prove” your guy in the Apostolic Palace – whoever he is – was on the side of the angels, or that the other guys were rotten. Popes are institutional as much as their lieutenants and handlers, however fancy their attire. While institutional failure is the result of men thinking institutionally, there will be plenty of blame to go around.
Better to use this report to help figure out what went wrong, with a view to repair of the institution and the institutional leadership culture.
Above all, and before all else: take your time, and be as wary of confirmation bias as you are of the subjects.
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