The McCarrick Report Shows the Rush to Beatify Pope John Paul II was a Mistake
Yesterday’s release of the massive report into the crimes and cover-ups of the now-disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was devastating to the legacy of not just McCarrick, but also to one of the Catholic Church’s most beloved leaders. Now, Church officials must reconcile the fact that one of their saints is also one of the men responsible for the scandal that the Church finds itself in today.
However, to us, this is a self-inflicted wound and one that we at SNAP saw coming. That is why, back in 2011, SNAP leadership cautioned Vatican officials against rushing to beatify Pope John Paul II. Survivors and advocates who worked on the issue of clergy abuse daily knew then that Pope John Paul II had at best misled the public about the scandal and at worst actively ignored it and allowed it to continue. SNAP leadership pushed for a slower process to sainthood, warning that "some of their unsavory actions and inactions surface years later.” That is exactly what has happened.
The New York Times described this problem perfectly yesterday, writing "The church now has to reckon with the fact that one of its most beloved pontiffs is implicated is one of its most notorious scandals." We hope that the lesson learned from this is obvious – if someone is alleged to have abused people at least four times, do not promote them, even if you are friends with them and believe their account over that of multiple other people. The second lesson, only-slightly-less obvious, is to move slowly and carefully when doling out the highest honors in the Catholic Church so that it is clear beyond all doubt that the person receiving such an honor is deserving.
There was one man in this scandal that does appear to have deserved, if not sainthood, at least papal praise and a promotion. That man is Msgr. Dominic Bottino, a New Jersey priest who was present when two New Jersey bishops (Smith and McHugh) witnessed McCarrick’s crimes firsthand (account begins on page 87 of the report). This information would not be shared by the bishops themselves, but by Fr. Bottino in a letter to the Apostolic Nuncio in 2018. The priest described a young cleric who “looked like he was paralyzed” as he sat in a chair and was fondled by McCarrick in the presence of four other men, two of them bishops.
It has been said that to become a saint, one needs to perform a miracle. In the case of Msgr. Bottino, he went out of his way to report abuse and cover-up by his superiors and was not fired or ignored. A small miracle, indeed.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org, 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)