In today’s podcast, Father Dave discusses the recent sexual abuse allegations surrounding Cardinal McCarrick of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. He explains the investigation process and expresses his heartfelt regrets about the horrible abuse experienced at the hands of the Catholic Church.
“This is sad news again out of the Catholic Church here in America,” Father Dave says. “It never has a lessening effect, no matter how many times we hear this. We don’t get used to it, and I hope that we as Church and community and individual Catholics, still have the same amount of compassion and remorse for those who have experienced any kind of sexual or any other abuse by the hands of clergy or anyone else who works in the Church.”
Father Dave explains that Cardinal McCarrick is the retired archbishop for the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New York and worked there for some time, which is where these allegations stem from: “A couple of years ago the Archdiocese of New York opened up what they called an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program … the Archdiocese of New York has entered into an agreement with a third-party mediator, a famous lawyer who has done meditations for big class-action lawsuits against companies and is known for being victim friendly. The Archdiocese of New York agreed that whatever this person who is in charge of mediation would agree to after meeting with victims and employing forensic investigation and an outside independent review board to review the details of cases, that if allegations seemed to be credible enough, they would do mediation and settlement. This is offered to anybody. So, people could have the option of choosing this route, or in more recent situations, they could have the option of recourse to civil or criminal cases.
“So, this abuse allegedly happened about 45-50 years ago. Cardinal McCarrick is now 87, so he would’ve been in his mid-30s at the time and a somewhat newly ordained priest here in the Archdiocese of New York. … A few months ago the victim contacted the independent review board who notifies the archdiocese, who then notifies the local authorities. Even though in New York, these allegations are outside of the statute of limitations, that is what we now require ourselves to do. In this case, because the person accused is now a cardinal, the archdiocese had to contact the Vatican as well. Because the only person who has any sort of jurisdiction in the Church over a cardinal is the Holy See. …
“Over the course of a couple of months, and using this Reconciliation and Compensation Program, they have determined that the allegations against Cardinal McCarrick are credible and substantiated. This has been reported to the Vatican, and the very first step is to insist that Cardinal McCarrick no longer practice public ministry. … So, even though he is 87 and retired, it is still possible that he can do a Confirmation here and there. So, he’s no longer allowed to do that. The other end of the scale, in terms of the worst that the Church can do, is remove him from the clerical state. That doesn’t invalidate everything he’s done as a priest or bishop. It doesn’t make all of the people he ordained or confirmed invalid, but at least at the level of the human level that he would ‘no longer be a priest.’ We believe sacramentally that priesthood is permanent, but to be removed from the clerical state is a more severe penalty than taking away priestly faculties.”
“While I don’t know the man personally, I’ve met Cardinal McCarrick on a couple occasions only in recent years,” Father Dave goes on to say. “And my only impression in those small moments is that he’s just a sweet old grandpa type of guy. Obviously, that doesn’t say that these allegations are not true. … In his statement, Cardinal McCarrick says that he does not remember this incident that he is being accused of and maintains his innocence.
“The more and more we hear of these things, it just compounds, even more, the frailty and humanity that we have in our Church. While we believe the Holy Spirit is guiding it and helping us persevere, there are many flaws, sins, and worse that have even been in positions of authority and power in the Church. … I’m very sorry for those who have experienced such pain and horrific abuse at the hands of members of the clergy. We cannot too often ask for your forgiveness, you the people of God.”
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)