By Fr. Gerald E. Murray, November 21, 2020
The publication of the McCarrick Report  was a welcome step by the Holy See. It answers some questions raised by the appallingly successful ecclesiastical career of a now-defrocked cardinal, long known by many to be a sexual predator who used his authority to gain access to young male victims. A closer study of the Introduction to the Report, however, raises other serious questions, and reveals fundamental deficiencies in the Report.
To begin: Who wrote the report? No author is cited. The cover page states: “Prepared by the Secretariat of State of the Holy See.” Was the author an employee of Secretariat, or someone brought in from the outside? Did he bring in investigators to help him? If so, who were they?
The credibility of an investigative report depends in large part on the up-front identification of the prior relationship between the author and the institution he is investigating. It also depends upon the author’s willingness to stand behind his findings and conclusions, as well as to answer questions and criticisms following the publication of his work. So far, this has not happened.
On October 6, 2018, Pope Francis commissioned “a thorough examination of all the records preserved in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding McCarrick” and subsequently “extended the inquiry to include information drawn from persons and ecclesiastical institutions with knowledge of events, in order to achieve a more accurate and complete account of the facts.” (Letter of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, 10 November 2020). Which persons and which institutions were asked for information?
“No limit was placed on the examination of documents, the questioning of individuals or the expenditure of resources necessary to carry out the investigation.” (p. 1) Were the investigators required to submit the names of proposed witnesses to the Secretariat of State for approval prior to questioning them? If yes, did the Secretariat remove (or add) any witnesses from the list? How much was the total cost of the Report?
Those preparing the Report conducted “over ninety witness interviews, each ranging in length from one to thirty hours.” (p.1) And “numerous individuals who had direct physical contact with McCarrick were interviewed in connection with the Report.”(p. 2)
But who was interviewed and how long was each interview? When were they interviewed? Were witnesses allowed to testify anonymously? Were the interviews recorded and then transcribed? Why weren’t the names of the over ninety witnesses published? Did any proposed witnesses refuse to testify?
Why was Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, in particular, not called as a witness, when he was a central figure in the events under examination?
“Any person who was victimized by McCarrick of course remains free to share his experiences publicly, as several have already done.” (p. 3) Are ecclesiastical entities victimized by McCarrick likewise free to share their experiences publicly?
Perhaps not, according to what follows: “The Holy See also received materials from Catholic entities in the United States, including the USCCB, the Diocese of Metuchen, the Archdiocese of Newark, the Archdiocese of New York, the Archdiocese of Washington and Seton Hall University.” (p. 2)
What entities provided materials apart from the named entities? “The materials were gathered for the sole purpose of contributing to this Report and are not authorized for any other use.” (p.2) Does this mean that these entities are prohibited by the Holy See from making public their own findings on McCarrick? If yes, why?
“The Report does not provide an accounting of. . .McCarrick’s fundraising skills and gift giving” (p. 4) These topics were, nonetheless, investigated and the “record appears to show that although McCarrick’s fundraising skills were weighed heavily, they were not determinative with respect to major decisions made relating to McCarrick, including his appointment to Washington in 2000.”
The readers of this Report, prepared after a “thorough study of the documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding McCarrick” (p.1) should have been provided with the facts found in this study, which would have enabled them to draw that or any other conclusion based on a consideration of the evidence gathered, as they are able to do concerning other important matters in the Report.
Similarly, the readers of the Report should be the ones to evaluate for themselves the documents and testimony that the Report says do “not reveal evidence that McCarrick’s customary gift-giving and donations impacted significant decisions made by the Holy See regarding McCarrick during any period.” (p. 4)
What is the distinction, for that matter, between “gift-giving” and “donations”? Who received gifts or donations? How much was each gift or donation? How many such gifts or donations were given to each person or entity over time? What was the source of such gifts and donations?
What “significant decisions” were examined in relation to gifts and donations that might have impacted those decisions, but did not – in the opinion of the Report’s author?
How many witnesses reported receiving gifts and donations from McCarrick? Did any witnesses report being offered such gifts and donations and refusing to accept them? Were gifts and donations given in the form of cash, check, or electronic transfer of funds? Did McCarrick use money from The Archbishop’s Fund, which he alone controlled, in ways that may have violated U.S. laws governing charitable foundations?
“The citations set forth in the footnotes below refer to the Acta deposited in the Holy See archives with the original of the Report. To protect the rights and interests of individuals and public and private entities involved, the Acta are not published with this Report. Nevertheless, the Report quotes critical documents in full.” (p. 4)
Why aren’t the Acta published? If the full or partial citation in the Report of documents and testimony, along with the revelation of the identity of the document’s author or the witness giving testimony, does not harm their “rights and interests,” then the publication of the Acta cannot harm their “rights and interests.”
Once an internal or secret communication is publicly cited by the authority that has control of such, it loses the protections it previously enjoyed. The revelation of previously internal and even secret communications in the Report was judged necessary to fulfill the mandate given by Pope Francis to the Secretariat of State “to ascertain the relevant facts, placing them in their historical context and evaluating them objectively.”
Thus the “rights and interests” of ecclesiastical persons and institutions at the origin of relevant documents or with knowledge of relevant facts cede to the decision of the pope to order the publication of this Report.
In legal filings and academic papers, the citation of a source only has verifiable value if the readers can compare the footnoted quotation with the original document from which it is taken. This guarantees not only that the citation accurately reflects the original document, but also that any interpretation or evaluation of the cited material is supported by that document considered as a whole.
“Nevertheless, the Report quotes critical documents in full.” (p. 4) What makes a document critical as opposed to not critical? Critical to what or to whom? Critical in itself or in relation to other evidence? “With respect to documents described or quoted in part, those descriptions and quotations accurately reflect the content of the document at issue.” (p. 4)
While not wishing to impugn the author’s good faith, the only way that readers can objectively confirm the truth of this statement is for them to have access to the Acta so that they can compare the original document with the part that is quoted. Accuracy in the citation is not the only purpose of providing access to the original document. Again, a review of the full record alone will confirm or undermine the conclusions presented in the Report based on evidence only cited in part.
“[T]his Report should provide a significant contribution to the record,” in the words of Cardinal Marc Ouellet, through its presenting “a critical, comprehensive view on the procedures and the circumstances of this painful case, so that such events are not repeated in the future.” (pp.4-5)
A significant contribution, yes, but in a matter of such grave scandal, far from complete. Or satisfying.
The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is a canon lawyer and the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City.
Article reprinted with permission from The Catholic Thing: https://www.thecatholicthing.org