In a highly anticipated move the, Vatican has released a deeply disturbing report describing in exhaustive detail how defrocked Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, over the course of decades, sexually abused other priests and seminarians and teenage boys. Equally disturbing was the revelation that Pope John Paul II knew of the sexual abuse allegations for almost two decades before the Cardinal was defrocked.
Saunders & Walker is representing a former altar boy from the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, in a lawsuit against McCarrick and the Diocese for abuse that occurred in 1982-1983 at St. Francis of Assisi Church.
According to the Washington Post, the 495 page report “provides a stunning play-by-play of how church leaders disregarded clues about McCarrick’s misconduct, believed ‘church men’ over victims, and tried to keep any discipline modest and private.” The first recorded sexual abuse allegations against McCarrick went back to 1971. Rumors about his sexual behavior began to circulate throughout the church. Then in 1999, the report goes on to detail how Pope John Paul II was informed that the then-bishop McCarrick routinely “shared a bed with young seminarians over whom he had authority but decided nonetheless to appoint McCarrick as archbishop of Washington and later name him as a cardinal.” In a 1999 letter to the Pope, Cardinal John O’Connor, then the archbishop of New York, wrote that he knew of allegations of improper sexual conduct by McCarrick that dated back to 1987, and that he had committed pedophilia and that he shared a bed with young adult men and seminarians. In spite of these horrendous allegations, Pope John Paul II still personally made the decision to appoint McCarrick as Cardinal.
It is especially worth noting here that as Cardinal, McCarrick became a highly productive fundraiser for the Catholic Church. He directed millions of dollars to John Paul II, Benedict and Francis over the decades for papal charities through his Papal Foundation, which drew contributions from wealthy American Catholics.
However, claims of sexual abuse continued to follow McCarrick including a 2018 letter from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò that accused the church, and Pope Francis, of being complicit in covering up accusations that McCarrick had sexually abused seminarians. Finally, in 2019 he could no longer escape the allegations and McCarrick was stripped of his rank of cardinal and subsequently removed him from the priesthood. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty of solicitation during confession and of abuse. McCarrick now lives in an undisclosed location in housing provided by the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church has been ravaged by the plague of sexual abuse committed by clergy members. For the most part the response of the church has been marked by paralysis and created a crisis of confidence among the faithful. While on the surface the Pope Francis’ new set of Papal norms – Vos Estis Lux Mundi – provide for reporting and investigation into accusations of clerical sexual abuse and its cover-up, a closer look reveals them to be toothless and potentially ineffectual because of the absence of full accountability to civil authorities. McCarrick was a known sexual predator and the church allowed him to abuse young men and children for decades. He still lives unprosecuted, and free. Sexual abuse is a crime and should be treated as such; the church should never be a shield from prosecution.
But in the United States pedophile priests are being prosecuted now in record numbers, and abuse victims are receiving the justice so long denied them. Across the country, statutes of limitation, long used to shield predatory priests from prosecution, have been lengthened in many states and lifted all together in others. Victims have new paths to justice that had been previously closed.
At Saunders & walker we have long advocated victims of sex abuse by priests and other church members. It is necessary to allow for the unique circumstances that exist in abuse cases, and especially those involving clergy. In almost every case children are reluctant or unable to talk about pedophile priests or face their accusers. There are significant and unique barriers that prevent children from reporting what they intuitively know is inappropriate behavior. Fear of the accusing their abuser, the stigma of being abused, and a reluctance to confront the church often keep sexual abuse from being reported. Many victims of pedophile priests are unable to talk about abuse or face their accusers until they are well into adulthood, putting the crime beyond the reach of the law.
If a priest or another member of a church has sexually abused you, or anybody you know, please contact Saunders & Walker (https://www.saunderslawyers.com/) at 1-800-748-7115 to discuss your legal options. All conversations will be kept strictly confidential.
You can find the link to the full report (461 pages) here: http://www.vatican.va/resources/resources_rapporto-card-mccarrick_20201110_en.pdf