By Robert Mickens, LaCroix, November 14, 2020
In the end, it was just about what was to be expected.
The exceedingly long and long awaited report on the history of Theodore McCarrick’s rise to the penultimate rung of the Catholic hierarchy is now out.
And it’s being interpreted in almost as many ways as the number of men who are currently members of the College of Cardinals, that exclusive club from which McCarrick was eventually expelled for sexual abusing at least one underage boy.
But, in fact, the so-called “McCarrick Report” has revealed very little that many people inside the Church did not already know or suspect.
Up until two years ago when the Archdiocese of New York finally determined that the former cardinal had abused a minor in the 1970s, there were longstanding rumors about McCarrick’s habit of sleeping with adult seminarians.
But in the newly released report, the Vatican wrings its hands, regretting that for all these years it was simply the case that no one could actually verify that Uncle Ted was sharing his bed with these young candidates for the priesthood whom he called his “nephews”.
Of the clericsCountless priests, bishops and cardinals even claimed that, gosh, they’d never even heard about any of that.
Those that had heard about it, including a few popes, simply didn’t want to believe that such talk was anything more than just petty gossip. Or they rationalized it by claiming that, well, at least the seminarians were adults. McCarrick wasn’t diddling kids.
Negligence, gullibility, willful blindness, refusal to listen to accusations, attempts to discredit accusers, and lies of various magnitudes.
These are part of the potpourri of excuses the McCarrick Report furnishes, sometimes in numbing detail, to explain how a classic Church careerist climbed the ecclesiastical ladder to become the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington.
But nothing was more determinative to Uncle Ted’s rise in the clerical Church, the report assures us, than his own skills of deception.
My Lord, he was even able to dupe John Paul II. He actually was able to pull the wool over the sagacious eyes of John Paul the Great!
As for poor Benedict XVI, after he had pretty solid proof that McCarrick was sleeping with seminarians, he opted for the discreet and merciful measures of quietly retiring the cardinal and instructing (though never forcing) him to keep a low profile.
Then came Pope Francis. He didn’t seem to be too concerned about what the ageing American was up to and figured he’d just let things be as his Bavarian predecessor had left them.
And then, finally, a witness came forward with the pedophilia claim.
The wheels of Church justice went into overdrive and, within a little over a year, Francis removed McCarrick from the College of Cardinals and then from the priesthood.
When there was rock solid proof, the pope immediately took decisive action.
This is the narrative the authors of the report are trying to sell us. And, it seems, there are a lot of people who are buying it
Some have hailed the McCarrick Report as monumental, a game-changer, a milestone. Others have claimed that it represents an “unprecedented” act of transparency by the Vatican.
But does it really?
By the clerics
Oh, there certainly is a massive amount of material – a lot of it ugly, embarrassing and damning – in the report’s 449 pages.
And then there are the 1,410 footnotes. Yes, you read that correctly: one-thousand-four-hundred-and-ten footnotes.
They provide even more gruesome details and wonkish “facts” that will fascinate ecclesiastical voyeurs and scandalize those who are piously clueless or cluelessly pious.
But sheer volume of Church records, interviews and personal correspondence does not prove the Vatican is being transparent, certainly not completely so.
Remember that the Holy See’s Secretariat of State prepared the McCarrick Report at the direction of Pope Francis.
But the genesis of this report actually goes back to August 2018 when Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former papal nuncio to the United States, wrote a wild attack on the current pope for protecting McCarrick. He even called for Francis to resign.
A number of US bishops vouched for Viganò’s integrity and credibility and, eventually, the entire national bishops’ conference asked the pope to launch a Vatican investigation into the whole saga of McCarrick’s career.
They demanded we get to the bottom of who knew what about him and when they knew it.
That’s when the pope instructed the Secretariat of State to widen the investigation.
For the clerics
Yet, there is strong suspicion, and some evidence, that at least much of the McCarrick Report was written by Jeffrey Lena, a California-based attorney that has represented the Holy See in sex abuse cases for the last two decades.
Why doesn’t the report come right out and say that? Ok, Lena is certainly on the Vatican’s payroll and, the way things work in this organization, he’d have to be extremely loyal to the institutional Church to have this job.
But if he and his team are the ones that actually wrote the report, acknowledging such would at least show that lay people played a role in this project.
But like those rumors that dogged Teddy McCarrick all those years, we can’t really say, because no one has come forth to confirm them.
The US bishops had urged the pope to entrust the investigation to a board of respected lay experts. But Francis and his aides ignored this advice. It was a mistake to do so.
But one can only suspect why – because the Vatican would not be in control of what would and would not be reported.
The McCarrick Report is long and should be studied slowly and carefully. But a first summary reading suggests that there must be something missing.
All we have are a bunch of people who kept dropping the ball and were not following up on accusations, but dismissing them as “only rumors”. No one was really to blame except Teddy the amazing con artist. He fooled us all.
Except he didn’t. And that fact probably leads us closer to the truth about what really happened.
He used money and his position as bishop, archbishop and – eventually cardinal – to “buy” people’s silence and cull their favor.
No one would come forward and tell Church authorities what they knew. No one would sign a sworn statement.
Not the seminarians, for fear that McCarrick or his loyalists would block them from being ordained.
Not the priests – including certain seminary rectors –, out of their desire to be raised to the episcopate, which they knew McCarrick could facilitate or impede.
Not McCarrick’s fellow bishops – especially his juniors –, out of a similar desire for further advancement, which McCarrick could help or hinder. And for fear of being cut off from his generous monetary donations.
And not even the popes and their aides, who found in McCarrick an important financial and (at times) diplomatic asset of the Holy See.
All clerics or future clerics.
Many of them are (or were) talented and good men who, from their first years in seminary, found themselves increasing conformed to a clerical system and mentality that works very much like an Old Boys’ Network.
By the standards of the Gospel, it is a bad system. And everyone knows it’s hard to be good in a bad system. And it’s even harder to stand at a distance, objectively see the system’s defects and uncover them with any real transparency.
That, perhaps, is the real flaw of the “McCarrick Report”.
This article first appeared HERE.