Vatican Corner 02-24-19

The Vatican announced on February 16, 2019 the conviction of the 88 year old ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick on the charges of sexual abuse of minors and adults – aggravated by the abuse of power – and solicitation in the confessional. The penalty imposed, the most serious one possible, laicization – the removal from being a member of the clergy, also known as “defrocking”, although that term is not used in canon law. The judicial decision was made on January 11 by a special congress of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was then appealed and the full membership rejected the appeal on February 13 and Pope Francis approved the ruling . There is now no possibility of additional appeals. McCarrick is no longer allowed to wear clerical clothes or perform Mass or sacraments. He became the first cardinal ever to be removed from the priesthood because of sexual abuse. He has lost his right to the housing and income provided by the Church a(er serving it for 60 years. During his time leading three different dioceses, he declined to draw a salary or pension, so it was apparent that he had private income unconnected with the Church, But the size and source of that income is unknown. He is currently living in a secluded friary in Victoria, Kansas. McCarrick was once considered one of the most powerful leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States, and one of the most influential cardinals world-wide. Last June was when the first allegations against McCarrick were made public. But Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan has said he first heard accounts of McCarrick’s misbehavior as far back as 1994. Since the June public disclosure a number of accounts have emerged that apparently show that the Vatican was aware of McCarrick’s behavior. Evidence was found credible that McCarrick molested a minor altar boy almost 50 years earlier, and another man said he was in this 20s when he was abused by McCarrick in the 1980s. It was found that two New Jersey dioceses had secretly paid settlements to two men who had accused McCarrick of abuse. It was exposed that for years there were rumors of McCarrick used the power of his office to coerce young men that were training to be priests in order to have sex with him. While the 6 months period between his resignation as Cardinal and his expulsion seemed endless to many, it was actually lighting speed by Vatican standards. But the big questions raised by his case have so far not been answered. How could McCarrick with his scandalous track record rise so high in ecclesiastical responsibility, and go unchecked for so long? Who championed McCarrick’s advancement and could they have been influence by McCarrick’s generous gift giving? The defrocking comes just a few days before Pope Francis convenes an extraordinary summit on sexual abuse in the Church, and it may be to send a “strong signal” that he is serious about addressing abuse.