On Tuesday, the Vatican released a massive report investigating how Theodore E. McCarrick, disgraced former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, reached the heights of the Catholic Church, though leaders received reports that he had sexually abused minors and adult seminarians over decades.
Here are five takeaways from the report:
Pope John Paul II was aware of McCarrick’s allegations of sexual misconduct.
Pope John Paul II personally made the decision to raise Mr McCarrick even after an American cardinal warned that he had been accused of sexual misconduct.
In 1999, when Mr. McCarrick was considering taking over the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York wrote a six-page letter to the Vatican Ambassador to the United States. concerns that Mr. McCarrick had asked young adult men to sleep in his bed with him and that some priests had suffered psychological trauma due to Mr. McCarrick’s inappropriate behavior.
“I regret having to recommend such a promotion very strongly, especially if it was at a cardinal seat,” Cardinal O’Connor said. “Nevertheless, I submit my comments to a higher authority and more particularly to our Holy Father.”
Vatican officials shared the assessment with Pope John Paul II. But the Pope dismissed the allegations after Mr. McCarrick wrote him a letter directly denying them, and he still elevated Mr. McCarrick to the Archdiocese of Washington, one of the country’s most important posts. “McCarrick’s direct relationship with John Paul II probably also had an impact on the Pope’s decision-making,” the report says.
Pope John Paul II initially called for an investigation into the allegations, but the Vatican now suggests he was deceived by three New Jersey bishops, who provided “inaccurate and incomplete information” to the Holy See, according to the report.
“This inaccurate information appears to have had an impact on the conclusions of advisers to John Paul II and, therefore, John Paul II himself,” the report said, dismissing some of the blame.
The allegations were dismissed as “rumor”, according to the report, and “McCarrick’s refusal was believed.” The bishops were also asked to keep this investigation secret.
The report also describes a disturbing account by a New Jersey priest, Msgr. Dominic Bottino, who said he saw two of the New Jersey bishops watch Mr. McCarrick touch a man’s crotch in 1990, and also failed to inform the Pope of the incident.
Pope Benedict XVI ousted McCarrick from his post as Archbishop of Washington, but refused to investigate him.
Shortly after Benedict XVI became Pope in 2005, he quickly extended Mr. McCarrick’s tenure as Archbishop of Washington.
But he turned the tide by the end of the year, based on “new details” regarding the allegations against Mr McCarrick, and “urgently sought” to replace Mr McCarrick in that role. As of Easter 2006, Mr. McCarrick was absent.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, an official in the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, wrote two letters in 2006 and 2008 calling on a church to investigate rumors about Mr McCarrick. Instead of formally investigating the allegations, Benedict XVI authorized a Vatican official to “appeal to McCarrick’s conscience” and ask him to “keep a low profile and minimize travel.” But this request was not a formal order, and Mr. McCarrick continued to roam the world freely on behalf of Catholic causes and institutions.
Archbishop Viganò became Vatican ambassador to the United States in 2011 and was asked to conduct an investigation to determine whether the allegations against Mr McCarrick were credible. The report states that “Viganò did not take these measures.”
Pope Francis did nothing until 2017 because he believed the allegations had already been investigated by Pope John Paul II.
Pope Francis was aware that there were rumors of wrongdoing, but until 2017, according to the report, no one provided him with documentation on the allegations. Pope Francis believed that everything had already been reviewed by Pope John Paul II. He also knew that under his predecessor, Benedict, Mr. McCarrick had remained active, and therefore he saw no need to change the approach of the church.
In June 2017, the Archdiocese of New York learned of an allegation of sexual abuse by Mr. McCarrick over a minor decades earlier. Shortly thereafter, Pope Francis called for the resignation of Mr. McCarrick from the College of Cardinals.
It is extremely unusual for the Vatican to investigate its top leaders in this way.
Pope Francis first promised a “comprehensive study” of the Vatican’s handling of the McCarrick affair in 2018. The long-awaited result is a highly unusual public inquiry into the abuses and cover-ups spanning decades and reaching the highest levels of the Vatican ranks. .
The report will have broad implications for a world church that has been rocked for decades by its mismanagement of sexual abuse by the clergy.
John Paul II is not just a pope – he is also a saint. During his accelerated canonization mass in 2014, Pope Francis greeted him as “the Pope of the family”.
The church now has to reckon with having one of its most beloved pontiffs involved is one of its most notorious scandals.
Sharon otterman contribution to reports.