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Were These Men Complicit?

For bishops who knew about sexual predators but concealed their abuse, the cover-up is worse than the crime.  Why?  Because they enabled predators to continue their abuse, ruining the lives of additional people. Bishops have special oversight responsibilities. If they even suspect that a cleric may be guilty of sexual abuse, they have a duty to conduct an investigation. Failure to do so suggests a lack of competence and/or moral integrity to continue to hold his office.

Below is a partial list of bishops who likely had knowledge of sexual predators (click on the bishop to get the details).  Only living bishops are included on this list.  Additional names will be added as new information comes to light. If you have direct knowledge of evidence that suggests a bishop should have known about McCarrick, please share your evidence.

To be clear, we cannot judge these men.  As faithful lay Catholic leaders, however, we can assemble the facts that can then be adjudicated by the rightful authority to determine a bishop’s accountability.  However, those responsible in any way for allowing predators like Theodore McCarrick to continue their abuse must immediately publicly confess their responsibility and resign their office.  Retired bishops should be required to be commit to a solitary life of pray and penance for the remainder of their days.

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About Theodore McCarrick

‘Uncle Ted’ – that’s what Theodore McCarrick preferred to be called by his favored young seminarians and priests.  He was a high-profile cleric who rose quickly through the ranks to become Bishop of Metuchen, Archbishop of Newark, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. and ultimately the most powerful Cardinal in the United States. He was a close adviser to multiple popes, sat on a variety of powerful committees and even played a leading role in drafting the United States Council of Catholic Bishops’ response to the priest sexual abuse scandal in 2002.  But behind the facade, McCarrick reportedly preyed on young men, including minors, seminarians and priests.

On June 20, 2018, Cardinal McCarrick was removed from public ministry after a review board of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York found an allegation “credible and substantiated” that he had sexually abused a 16-year-old altar boy while a priest in New York.  McCarrick stated that he was innocent of these charges.

On July 5, Fordham University rescinded an honorary degree and other honors it had granted Cardinal McCarrick. The Catholic University of America, where McCarrick earned two degrees and served in a variety of spiritual and administrative positions, revoked the honorary degree it awarded him in 2006.

In late July 2018, a New Jersey man whose uncle had known McCarrick since high school alleged that McCarrick had sexually abused him for 20 years, and that McCarrick had exposed himself to him when he was 11 and had sexually touched him beginning when he was 13. On July 16, 2018 The New York Times published a front-page article describing McCarrick’s abuse of adult seminarians.

On July 27, 2018, Pope Francis ordered McCarrick to observe “a life of prayer and penance in seclusion” and accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals. He is the first cardinal ever to resign following allegations of sexual abuse. The Vatican announced on July 28, 2018, that Pope Francis had ordered Archbishop McCarrick to obey an “obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him” and also observe “a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.”

Hopeful Homilies

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The Catholic sexual abuse scandal is an indicator of a much deeper problem in today’s hierarchy — a lack of faith, holiness and accountability. Which priest, who truly believes in a just God could commit these heinous acts? And which bishops would allow these crimes to go unchecked year after year? It’s difficult to believe that anyone who truly believes in a just and mighty God could be a party to such atrocities.

Sin and Sacrilege

Some bishops are trying to limit the discussion to the sexual abuse of minors only, as if the abuse of priests and seminarians somehow doesn’t rise to the level of a serious offense. Nothing could be further from the truth. All clerics who receive the Sacrament of Orders, either implicitly or explicitly, make an oath of chastity. Any serious transgression in the matter of this vow is a grievous sin. Furthermore, for a bishop to use his office as a spiritual father to lead children or adults into sexual activity is a monstrous sacrilege and cries out to heaven for justice.

As Phil Lawler writes in his book The Faithful Departed:

The same corruption that produced the sex-abuse scandal, the greatest crisis in the history of American Catholicism, remains widespread in the Church today. Indeed the corruption is more firmly entrenched now than it was in 2002, because the hierarchy has refused to acknowledge the most serious aspect of the scandal: the treason of the bishops.

For churchmen to systematically conceal crimes against the faithful, select and advance sexually deviant clergy and then lie to the public about their culpability suggests a serious culture of corruption in the Church.  This problem is not limited to the United States, as evidenced by recent reports involving bishops from Australia, AustriaChile, Honduras and Italy.

Past Response to the Failure of Bishops

How did saints of the Church respond to similar scandals of the past?  Look to St. Peter Damian:

“Listen, you do-nothing superiors of clerics and priests. Listen, and even though you feel sure of yourselves, tremble at the thought that you are partners in the guilt of others; those, I mean, who wink at the sins of their subjects that need correction and who by ill-considered silence allow them license to sin. Listen, I say, and be shrewd enough to understand that all of you alike are deserving of death, that is, not only those who do such things, but also they who approve those who practice them.” — St. Peter Damian

We Must Not Be Complicit

Faithful Catholics must rally courageous clergy who, up until now, have been intimidated or coerced into silence, to step forward and help to cleanse Christ’s Church.  Here are some specific actions we can take to begin the process:

  1. Begin a discipline of daily prayer, regular fasting and Adoration to petition Christ to purify His church.
  2. Sign the petition requesting Pope Francis to hold complicit clergy accountable.
  3. If you have evidence indicating clerics had direct knowledge Theodore McCarrick’s abuse, please share it with us. We will vet the information and confidentially share it with appropriate authorities and/or investigative journalists.
  4. As directed by the Holy Spirit, get involved in demanding action at a local level.  Examples include meeting with your bishop and demanding action, peaceful protesting those who were complicit, withholding financial support for those parishes, dioceses and organizations which refuse to take action.

There Are Many Good and Holy Clergy

We must remember that the current crisis was created by a minority of clergy. There are many good and holy Catholic deacons, priests and bishops who are deeply saddened, angered and frustrated by this crisis. We need to continue to support and pray for these men and share with them your appreciation for the work that they do.

The Church Shall Endure

The Catholic Church has endured many crises throughout its 2000 year history. This scandal is no different. Jesus promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to protect the Church. We cannot allow the sins of some clergymen to lead us into sin by losing hope in the promises of Christ (see this homily by Fr. John DeCelles). Resist the temptation to leave the Church. Instead, offer your anger, disappointment and sadness as a sacrifice to Christ in reparation for the sins of the clergy and the restoration of His Church here on earth.