Edward Pentin reports from Rome for the National Catholic Register – The Vatican is remaining silent about its investigative report into disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., who was removed from public ministry two years ago June 20 after allegations emerged of his sexual abuse of minors and sexual harassment of seminarians.
The Holy See Press Office and the Vatican Dicastery for Communications have not responded to a number of inquiries in recent weeks by the Register, despite assurances from a number of prelates over the past six months that its publication was imminent.
In October 2018, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had ordered a “thorough study” of all the documentation in the Vatican archives to “ascertain all the relevant facts” surrounding McCarrick, who began his priesthood in New York and served as a bishop in New Jersey before coming to Washington.
The investigation was to build on a “thorough preliminary investigation” by the Archdiocese of New York begun in September 2017.
The documentation from that previous study was forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the purposes of the fuller investigation whose conclusions, the Vatican said in 2018, would be made known “in due course.”
McCarrick, who turns 90 on July 7, was canonically returned to the lay state in February last year. The CDF found him “guilty of the following delicts while a cleric: solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”
McCarrick had already resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018.
In his only interview since his fall from grace in August 2019, McCarrick said he was “not as bad as they paint me,” that he did not “believe” he had carried out the abuse he was accused of, and that he blamed “enemies” for a campaign against him.
The Vatican’s report is eagerly awaited in view of how, despite many knowing about allegations of sexual misconduct over many years, McCarrick was able to reach the highest ranks of the Church.
Questions also persist about his role in procuring donations from the Papal Foundation for a bankrupt Rome hospital, and his possible influence on the Vatican’s controversial approach to China. McCarrick had made a number of unofficial diplomatic visits to the country in the years before his removal from public ministry.
U.S. Bishops’ Concerns
The silence from the Vatican comes after U.S. bishops have expressed wishes and hopes for the report’s publication over the past few months. In November 2019, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston said it was possible the Vatican would publish the report by late last year or in the New Year of 2020.
He told Catholic News Service that the U.S. bishops on their ad limina visit last fall had “made it clear” to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, that “the people of our country are anxious to receive the Holy See’s explanation of this tragic situation, how he could become an archbishop and cardinal, who knew what and when.”
Other bishops have also raised the matter with the Vatican. In December, Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, told EWTN News that he asked about the status of the investigation and was “very glad to hear that a report is coming.” Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, also asked Pope Francis in January about the timing of the document’s release.
In February, Cardinal Parolin said he thought the report would “come out soon” but he could not say “exactly when.” He added: “The publication depends on the Pope. The work that is done is done, but the Pope must give the final word.”
Last year, the cardinal said the Vatican would issue a “declaration” upon the investigation’s completion but gave no timeline for its conclusion. He assured the faithful that the investigation was “taking up all of the documentation concerning the case.”
Earlier this month, an anonymous alleged sexual abuse victim of McCarrick said he and other alleged victims had been working with the Vatican to fact-check the report.
Writing under a pseudonym, “Nathan Doe” wrote in a June 5 blog post entitled “Message of Hope” that “time will tell, but nothing in my experience thus far indicates any type of coverup or attempt to minimize anything by anyone involved in the Holy See’s investigation.”
Doe, whose identity has not been independently verified, recognized that the perceived imminence of the report “served to raise expectations and it is clear now that the report has taken longer than anyone expected.” He said he did not think cardinals involved in the report “were trying to mislead anyone” with respect to the report’s continuing delay, and that “they believed what they were saying was true.”
In his blog post, just one of two entries on the site, Doe said rather than a coverup, he believed the “quite the opposite” was true in his experience, and that he believed the Holy See’s investigation was a “genuine search for the truth.”
In the first blog post, written in October last year, the author warned not to “underestimate the sheer volume of information” involved in this case.
He said, “I am personally inclined to grant all of the investigators all the time they need to do whatever work is necessary to get this done right once and for all.”