Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
At every turn, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's sex abuse crimes were ignored.

A long-awaited report from the Vatican has just been released, which details serial sexual abuse from a high-ranking cardinal, and a church culture which turned a blind eye. The report was commissioned with the intent of explaining just how the now-disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick ascended to his high rank within the Catholic Church, and one of its most visible figures in the United States, despite decades of credible sex abuse claims.

Their analysis? A shameful series of systemic failures, cronyism, and unwillingness to believe victims that lasted decades.

A Long Awaited Report

The “Report on the Holy See’s Institutional Knowledge and Decision Making related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick” was ordered by Pope Francis two years ago. More than 90 witnesses were interviewed over a two year period, and dozens of documents from the Vatican.

McCarrick’s rise through the ranks of the Catholic Church in the United States was ascendant. He was ordained into the priesthood in 1958, and served as president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico during the late 1960s.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, he received a number of increasingly important appointments; From the Auxiliary Bishop of New York, to the Bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, to Archbishop of Newark. Finally, he was installed by Pope John Paul II as Archbishop of Washington D.C. in 2000, and finally given the rank of cardinal in 2001.

And every step along the way, abuse allegations were made - and ignored.

Disturbing Allegations

The report details that as late as 1986, well into his rise within the church, the Vatican had no “credible information” regarding misconduct by McCarrick. But in 1992 and 1993, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops received anonymous letters accusing McCarrick of pedophilia.

There were reports of a 'sex ring' at his New Jersey beach house. And he was also the subject of numerous complaints about unwanted touching of pre- and post-pubescent boys throughout the 1990s, as well as holding inappropriate sleeping arrangements with his subordinates in the church, who felt pressured to acquiesce to his demands lest they lose their job.

The report says that Pope John Paul II received a letter from the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal John O’Connor, in 1999, detailing the various allegations against McCarrick, as the pontiff considered McCarrick for the position of Archbishop of Washington.

O’Connor implored the pontiff to reject McCarrick. Pope John Paul II initially declined McCarrick for that position, but then reneged after receiving a letter from McCarrick himself emphatically denying the claims. Of course, Pope John Paul II and McCarrick had known each other since the 70s, and “McCarrick’s direct relationship with John Paul II also likely had an impact on the Pope’s decision-making,” per the report.

Pope Benedict XVI was also aware of the allegations against McCarrick, but dismissive of them, in part because McCarrick swore on his “oath as a bishop” that he’d engaged in no wrongdoing. But later Benedict requested McCarrick retire “for the good of the Church” after learning of a 1994 letter detailing abuse, opting not to hold a very public canonical trial as some suggested.

Instead, McCarrick quietly retired, but maintained his lofty status within the church and acted in a number of roles post-retirement.

The report largely absolves Pope Francis of any responsibility, but even that is in dispute. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò says that he personally spoke to Pope Francis in 2013 and informed him of Cardinal McCarrick’s serial abuse, and yet Francis made McCarrick his “trusted counselor” despite knowing “from at least June 23, 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator. He knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end."

Plenty of Blame to Go Around

At best, the report paints a picture of a Vatican bureaucracy that is completely unwilling to investigate claims of abuse against high-ranking officials, with blind eyes at every turn. At worst, it could be argued that by not removing or otherwise investigating McCarrick, those at the top are complicit in his heinous crimes.

McCarrick was dismissed from the clergy in 2019 after yet another abuse allegation, this one dating back to the 1970s. He remains the most senior church official to be laicized in the church’s modern history.

Yet, one question remains: Why? Why were allegations ignored for decades?

Some critics allege that it comes down to money. McCarrick helped found the Papal Foundation, a major fundraising arm of the Vatican. He was well known as a talented fundraiser for the church and the papacy, and was close with many top donors.

The report claims that McCarrick’s great skill for fundraising “weighed heavily,” on his upward trajectory, but it didn’t determine it outright.

What didn’t weigh heavily, apparently, was his documented history of sex abuse.

10 comments

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    How is this news? It's been known for decades, and it's been going on for centuries.

  1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

    Men who molest children are not "sex starved." Celibacy rules of the Roman Catholic church has nothing to do with it and does not create sexual predators. They were sexual predators prior to entering the priesthood. Moreover, it has been a safe haven for child molesters who have free access to victims and hide behind religion. Child predators are sexually attracted to children and power and control dynamics also plays a part in predation. Priests have free access to kids, altar boys, etc. and manipulate their parents into trusting them while they "groom" them. I have spent years treating both victims of sexual abuse as well as adjudicated sexual offenders, some were priests, some were minsters and youth pastors. Child molesters are really good at what they do...smooth talkers, the nicest guys you would ever want to meet and are good liars too. Don't give them an out by pointing to celibacy as the cause, it's not. They masturbate and those who are not child molesters have secret affairs with women and (men if gay).

  1. The Right Reverend D. Batch's Avatar The Right Reverend D. Batch

    Was he a Boy Scout leader too?

    1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      No he never was a Boy Scout Leader, but As a child, McCarrick served as an altar boy at the Church of the Incarnation in Washington Heights

  1. Dr. Bob Thomas's Avatar Dr. Bob Thomas

    Isn't it strange that money seems to play such an important role in all of this. It appears to be at the "root" of all their troubles.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Their god moves in mysterious ways, but hey, if their god approved slavery and beating them, and killed little children because he had a temper tantrum with Pharaoh sex abuse must be low on their gods list of concerns. It would be high on mine but then again I consider my morals are better than their god, and yet millions worship it. Weird!!

    🦁❤️

  1. flugo's Avatar flugo

    NO excuse for the sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy! None whatsoever! It's important to consider a possible contributing ingredient in this abuse. The unnatural, unreasonable celibacy policy imposed on the Catholic clergy HAS to be a factor for their deviancy.

    1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

      Spoken like someone who has never so much as read the cover of a book on human behavior.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    Martin Luther reported this ver 500 years ago if you know church history. He was horrified what he saw what the pope and the priests in Rome were doing when he arrived. Incredible isn’t in that the Catholic Church is effectively allowing human sacrificing in allowing priests to have there way with children in the name of God.

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    The most scandalous popes in history

    Pope Stephen VI (896 to 897)

    Arguably the most unbalanced of this lists' unscrupulous popes, Stephen VI set out to get revenge on his predecessor, Pope Formosus, who he felt had wronged him – in spite of the fact that his nemesis was now dead. Stephen arranged a court date and ordered Formosus' nine-month-old corpse to be exhumed, dressed in sacred papal robes and propped up on a throne to be tried for his crimes. With a deacon answering on behalf of the deceased, Stephen raged and raved accusations of Formosus having had unfairly receiving the pope title at Formosus' skeleton.

    The cadaver lost the trial, and Stephen declared Formosus' rule as pope void. He then chopped off the three fingers used to give blessings and ordered the body to be stripped of its robes and dumped into a cemetery for foreigners. Soon after, an earthquake struck Rome, destroying the papal basilica. The corpse was dug up once again and flung into the Tiber Rover, but a few compassionate people fished it out and gave Formosus a proper burial.

    However, the macabre trial came back to haunt Stephen, as the earthquake's damage was taken as a sign from God. Rioting mobs of Formosus' supporters arrested Stephen and locked him in a dungeon, where he was later found strangled to death.

    Pope John XII (955 to 964)

    Attaining the title of pope at age 18, he was quickly deemed lazy and childish

    John XII was accused of "homicide, perjury, sacrilege" and even incest. gambled with church offerings, and was even accused of castrating a cardinal.

    The "Patrologia Latina," a collection of the writings by church leaders, lists the charges made against John XII, including that he invoked demons, murdered and mutilated men, committed arson and gambled. The church leaders also claimed that he “turned the papal palace into a whorehouse” by committing adultery with numerous women, including two widows and his own niece, as well as his father's long-term girlfriend, incest with his relatives, including two of your sisters, and with having, like a pagan, invoked Jupiter, Venus, and other demons.”

    John XII reign as pope ended in his late 20s while supposedly in bed with a married woman, A jealous husband discovered his wife in bed with the pope, and the man proceeded to severely beat him. John XII died three days later when he died of a stroke .

    Benedict IX was a three-time pope described as "a demon from hell."

    Benedict IX was "placed" into the papacy in 1032, when he was likely just 12 years old. Not much is known about his policies, but it's clear that he wasn't well liked. (Historian Ferdinand Gregorovius called him "a demon from hell.")

    Soon, political opponents tried to murder him, so he fled St. Peter's Basilica and spent time in Rome, where he "stole, murdered and committed other, unspeakable deeds," according to one account.

    But he came back for more: In 1045, Benedict IX deposed his replacement and became pope again. His second round of popedom lasted just two months, though. He was reportedly offered a large sum of money and, in essence, sold the papacy to his successor.

    Benedict IX actually became pope a third time, seizing the throne after Pope Clement II died in 1047. Eight months later he was driven out by Henry III of the Holy Roman Empire — and he never returned.

    Gaining power and wealth from an early age as a result of his family's ties to the church, Benedict IX essentially inherited the title of pope since he was the nephew of both Pope John XIX and Pope Benedict VIII. He was only 20 years old, but quickly developed a reputation as being "cruel and immoral,"

    In fact, in his third book of dialogues, Pope Victor III wrote of Benedict IX's "rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts. His life as a pope so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it," according to "The Spirit."

    Saint Peter Damian had similar things to say of Benedict IX, describing him as "feasting on immorality" and "a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest," who sponsored orgies and routinely partook in bestiality, according to "The Spirit." In his final act of corruption as pope, Benedict IX decided that he wanted to pursue marriage, so he sold his holy title to his godfather for 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms) of gold.

    Boniface VIII

    Suffice it to say that Boniface VIII wasn't exactly beloved. After his election in 1294, he erected statues of himself all over Rome and said that sleeping with boys was no more problematic than "rubbing one hand against the other."

    His most flagrant offense? The entire city of Palestrina was destroyed on his orders — all because of a personal political feud.

    An envoy from the King of Aragon once summed up this pope's unpopularity, writing that "the cardinals all desire his death and are weary of his devilries."

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