VATICAN CITY – The Vatican released a long-awaited report on Tuesday investigating how disgraced former prelate Theodore E. McCarrick crossed the Roman Catholic hierarchy to become one of America’s most powerful cardinals, despite allegations long standing sexual misconduct which ultimately led to his downfall.
The report, which, given Mr McCarrick’s long career in the church, had the potential to engulf three separate papacies in the scandal, did not directly place the blame on Francis or his predecessors for knowingly encouraging him. or protected. But a 14-page summary of the report, which included a Who’s Who of powerful Vatican players and American Church officials, seemed to put it at Pope John Paul II’s apostolic door.
“Pope John Paul II personally made the decision to appoint McCarrick,” the report said, despite receiving a letter from Cardinal John O’Connor, Archbishop of New York, which summarized the allegations, some anonymous, that Mr. McCarrick had signed up. sexual conduct with another priest in 1987, that he had committed pedophilia with his “nephews” and that he shared a bed with young adult men and seminarians.
Pope John Paul II ordered an investigation to determine if the allegations were true. The bishops found that Mr McCarrick had shared a bed with young men but were not sure there had been sexual misconduct, according to the report. The report now considers the information provided by these bishops to be misleading.
“What is now known, thanks to the investigation undertaken for the preparation of the report, is that three of the four American bishops provided inaccurate and incomplete information to the Holy See regarding McCarrick’s sexual conduct with young people. adults, ”he said.
Mr McCarrick also appealed directly to Pope John Paul II’s guardian, Bishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, insisting on his innocence.
“McCarrick’s refusal was believed,” the report said, and the allegations were dismissed as rumors. Allegations by a priest who at the time accused Mr McCarrick of sexual misconduct were also dismissed as the priest himself abused two teenage boys.
The Vatican has argued that “John Paul II’s past experience in Poland regarding the use of spurious allegations against bishops” to hurt the church “played a role in its willingness to believe” Mr. McCarrick.
New details about the allegations made against Mr. McCarrick surfaced in 2005, and John Paul II’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI, “urgently sought” to replace Mr. McCarrick as Archbishop of Washington. In 2006, he was forced to resign from Washington.
Around this time, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, later appointed Vatican Ambassador to the United States, wrote two letters urging his superiors to initiate legal proceedings in the church to respond to the allegations and rumors.
The matter was brought directly to the attention of Pope Benedict, who spoke out against this path. “Instead, the decision was made to appeal to McCarrick’s conscience” and for him to “keep a lower profile.”
The Vatican says there were no credible accusations of child abuse against Mr McCarrick at the time and that Benedict was not “kept informed of McCarrick’s activities” in the United States or supervised by the following. When Archbishop Viganò became ambassador, the Vatican said it did not conduct an investigation as requested.
Pope Francis, according to the report, received notification of Benedict’s earlier indications from senior church officials, but received no documentation regarding the allegations against Mr. McCarrick until 2017. Believing that ‘they had already been carefully considered, the Vatican said Francis sees no need to change the approach taken in previous years. “
Jason Horowitz reported from Vatican City and Sharon Otterman from New York. Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting from Rome.