The McCarrick Report Falls Short of the Mark in terms of Prevention and Accountability
The Vatican’s long-awaited report into the crimes and cover-ups of disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick contains plenty of information about McCarrick’s crimes itself but falls woefully short of the mark in terms of true accountability. No child nor seminarian is safer because of this report.
Plenty of words in the report are spent detailing McCarrick’s misdeeds. Nowhere near enough are used to satisfactorily explain how McCarrick was able to elude allegations of sexual misconduct throughout his entire career. According to the report, church officials in New Jersey were first made aware of McCarrick’s sexual harassment of seminarians in 1987. By the time that McCarrick was being weighed for a promotion as Archbishop of Washington D.C., Pope John Paul II was aware that McCarrick had been accused of abusing both seminarians and children. The Pope promoted him anyway.
The report glosses over this promotion, blaming three New Jersey bishops, all of whom have since passed away, for failing to adequately inform the Vatican. The report also justifies the decision by writing “the Holy See had never received a complaint directly from a victim.” This is a simple throwaway line in the report, but to us is a disturbing one that belies how church officials have long handled the issue of clergy abuse – are survivors of childhood sexual abuse or workplace sexual harassment expected to make a pilgrimage to the Holy See before their allegations get taken seriously? The fact that Pope John Paul II took McCarrick’s denial at face value while dismissing the complaints of victims because they were not made to him directly smacks of arrogance and ignorance. Either way, children and vulnerable adults were put at risk.
The one living church official that this report singles out as Archbishop Carlo Vigano, notably one of Pope Francis’ most ardent public detractors. According to the report, Vigano chose not to investigate allegations from “Priest 3” in 2012. If this is true, Vigano should be removed from his position. At the same time, it is hard to believe that Vigano is the only living and working church official who chose not to properly investigate the accusations against one of the church’s darling fundraisers.
We are not surprised that bishops lied to protect McCarrick, just like we are not surprised that internal, church-run investigations routinely failed to collect valuable information (or, in the case of Vigano, to collect any at all). What is surprising, however, is just how little information this report contains on how the Catholic Church will prevent the rise of another McCarrick. This is especially concerning given that the report acknowledges that no church officials bothered to inform Pope Francis about their knowledge of McCarrick’s crimes until 2017. Clearly, properly communicating issues about clergy abuse remains an issue in the Vatican.
Ultimately, this report feels like an effort to save face and sanitize the legacies of church officials like Pope John Paul II. This report contains no punishments, no concrete steps to prevent future crimes, and consequently gives us no faith that this investigation was conducted in earnest. Rather than what survivors and advocates were hoping for, this report shows just how much church officials know about McCarrick’s victims and just how little they are willing to admit about he was able to get away with it for so long.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)