A former archbishop of Washington was just suspended from the ministry at the direction of Pope Francis after being accused of sexually abusing a teen, making him the highest-ranking American clergyman to face such accusations since 1993.
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick was suspended after an internal investigation found credible allegations that he abused a minor about 45 years ago, when he was a priest. That was the first official report made against McCarrick, according to the Archdiocese of New York.
Carefully following the process detailed by the Charter of the American bishops, this allegation was turned over to law enforcement officials, and was then thoroughly investigated by an independent forensic agency. Cardinal McCarrick was advised of the charge, and, while maintaining his innocence, fully cooperated in the investigation. The Holy See was alerted as well, and encouraged us to continue the process.
Again according to our public protocol, the results of the investigation were then given to the Archdiocesan Review Board, a seasoned group of professionals including jurists, law enforcement experts, parents, psychologists, a priest, and a religious sister.
The review board found the allegations credible and substantiated.
Interestingly enough, it’s Pope Francis — who is currently working to overcome criticism that he is part of the problem when it comes to cover-ups of child sexual abuse — who directed the Vatican Secretary of State to suspend McCarrick and limit his practice of public ministry. McCarrick says he “accepts the decision” but maintains his innocence.
It sounds like, at least at the archdiocese level, things were handled better than usual. At least by Catholic Church standards. The fact that Pope Francis directed the suspension is a nice change of pace, too.
Let’s not get too excited, though. This case is just one of many. It doesn’t outweigh all the other times the Church was less than forthcoming and abuse investigations weren’t taken seriously.
The accusations against McCarrick are especially notable because U.S.-based officials who rank this highly in the Church are rarely publicly accused.
Cardinal McCarrick is the highest American prelate to be publicly accused of sexually abusing a minor since 1993, when an allegation was made against Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, then archbishop of Chicago, who strongly denied it. The accuser later retracted his allegation, saying it stemmed from an “unreliable” memory recovered under hypnosis. Cardinals from other countries have previously faced public accusations and one, Cardinal George Pell of Australia, is facing trial there.
Who knows, maybe the #MeToo movement has finally reached the highest levels of the Catholic Church.
(Screenshot via YouTube)