On June 28, I posted about the recent revelations of credible and substantiated abuse accusations against Cardinal McCarrick by a former teenage altar boy. I also discussed Cardinal Joseph Tobin’s revelation that there have been three past accusations directed at McCarrick by adults in New Jersey, and two had been settled out of court. At the time, I also mentioned that “over the last week an increasing number of sordid stories about his sexual harassment of seminarians and other inappropriate actions have emerged.”

This week, Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times has details. A former seminarian (and later priest) has finally gone on the record against McCarrick, stating that he was the recipient of one of the two settlements. His 2005 settlement included a clause prohibiting him from speaking to the media about the case. This clause was recently lifted, according to the Times article. He reported that on a number of occasions in the 1980s, he and other seminarians went on vacation with then-Bishop McCarrick, where he was – on multiple occasions – coerced into sharing a bed with McCarrick, who would then engage in unwanted touching.

Another McCarrick victim, who allowed the details of his case to be reported on the condition that his identity remain private, reveals details about situations of abuse that are even more sordid and explicitly sexual. His case was settled in 2007.

Sadly, these details have been available to the public for at least 8 years, and yet nothing was done. The details revealed in the New York Times exposé tack closely to the (Warning: graphic content) note about McCarrick posted on former Benedictine Richard Sipe’s website, dated May 12, 2010 (the URL has a date of 2008-04-21).

Other than confirming the public rumors and obtaining on-the-record confirmation from two of the victims, the New York Times article contains at least two other significant revelations:

  1. Fr. Boniface Ramsey, who was on the faculty of Immaculate Conception Seminary in New Jersey attempted to warn the Vatican about McCarrick’s behavior. His warnings went unheeded, as McCarrick was subsequently assigned to Washington and was made a cardinal.
  2. While the documented seminarian abuse occurred in the 1980s, these cases were not settled until 2005 and 2007; both after he was made a Cardinal and after the 2002 Dallas Charter was issued. He was still the active archbishop of Washington in 2005.

The first of these revelations, that a priest’s attempts to warn the hierarchy about abuse fell on deaf ears, is sadly nothing new. It has only been in recent years that the Vatican has seemed to involve itself in rectifying these evils, and, as the Chilean abuse crisis and the resignation of abuse survivor Marie Collins from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors show, they still have a long way to go.

The second revelation is much more troubling. In 2002, the US Bishops approved the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a document establishing mandatory reporting and a zero-tolerance policy for those who have sexually abused children or young people. Apparently, for some bishops at least, the zero-tolerance policy only applies to victims under 18. So much for “never again.” Is it really necessary to revise the Charter to include vulnerable adults? Are the bishops that dense?

What the revelation of these settlements tells us is that young seminarians in their late teens and early 20s, newly away from home and answerable to the authority of their bishop, are not protected from sexual harassment or abuse from their superiors. Can this be described as anything other than silencing the victim and covering up the crime? The age of the victim is no excuse for what amounts to satanic duplicity by the clergymen and Church officials who hid this from the public.

While this entire story is extremely distressing, one fact that has been overlooked by many of these reports is that upon his retirement in 2006, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a man who had already cost the Church thousands of dollars in settlement money for the abuse of a seminarian (and would soon cost the Church thousands more), took up residence in a seminary for the next decade of his life.

Lord, have mercy.

These events leave the faithful with a series of important questions, some of which will likely never be answered:

Will the USCCB respond to this and make reforms? Will they revisit the Charter? Why weren’t vulnerable adults included in the first place? Why did Fr. Ramsey’s reports of abuse go unheeded? Why, nearly 20 years after the Boston crisis, is the American Church still covering up for clerics rather than protecting innocent people? Will McCarrick remain a cardinal? Will Pope Francis address this?

What will the Church do to regain our trust? We’re waiting.

 

Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland, having worked for many years in Catholic publishing. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.

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7 Responses

  1. Gloria says:

    Scandalous is just not enough. I hope and I pray there will be answers because if not then the US Bishops lose all credibility regardless of who they are. They have the people of God to look after and shepherd … what are they doing? Why are they silent? Why is Papa Francis silent? Are they just wringing their hands? I don’t understand it. I am wondering, ever since the story broke, it’s as if nothing was ever said let alone done. Well, not quite but where is the indignation?

  2. Christopher Lake says:

    Looking at the Archdiocese of Washington’s official statement on the accusations, at least some of which have been officially found to be credible, I noticed these sentences:

    “While saddened and shocked, this archdiocese awaits the final outcome of the canonical process and in the meantime asks for prayers for all involved.

    At the same time, we renew our commitment to care for the victims who have suffered abuse, to prevent abuse before it occurs, and to identify and report child abuse once it has happened.”

    I have to say, I am struggling with these statements. Apparently, from what I have been reading from various sources, McCarrick’s abusive behavior was known of by at least some people in high-ranking positions of authority in the Church. How is it that, only now, or quite recently anyway, the Archdiocese of Washington seemingly learns about this behavior and is “saddened and shocked” by it?

    How can the Archdiocese credibly claim to “renew our commitment to care for the victims who have suffered abuse, to prevent abuse before it occurs, and to identify and report child abuse once it has happened,” if abusive behavior from a Cardinal has apparently been known of, by some leaders in the Church for years, and little to nothing was done about it, except to *benefit the Cardinal*?

    My faith is taking a beating from things like this in the Church. It can be so painful to simply be a practicing Catholic at times like this. I won’t leave. I will live and die a Catholic. However, lay Catholics need answers and change– real, concrete answers, and lasting change that *does not allow for decades-long cover-ups of abuse*. I know that there have been some answers, and some positive actions taken, regarding sexual abuse in the Church overall. There should be more. This is the Church that Christ founded. In His name, for innocent, vulnerable, human beings, the Church must do more.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      I think the “saddened and shocked” statement was specific to the 1970/1971 accusations that resulted in the suspension of his faculties. In that case, as terrible as the allegations were, the system appears to have worked. The abuse was reported, investigated, and evaluated by a lay board in the Archdiocese of New York within a matter of months.

      The allegations of abuse of seminarians, on the other hand, are a different matter. The rumors have been going around for decades. Bishops were warned, the Vatican was notified, people were aware. The most egregious thing to me was the secrecy surrounding the settlements (and silencing of the victims) by the two New Jersey dioceses, especially since they occurred after 2002.

      This is a textbook cover-up. And any “justification” based on the fact that the victims were over 18 is sinful, frankly. Compounding the issue is that he then went to live in a seminary for the next 10-11 years: a seminary filled with young men, most of whom are foreign and new to the United States’ culture. It’s terrible. 2002 Boston-level terrible.

      Everyone who was complicit in this has much to answer for.

      • Christopher Lake says:

        Thanks for that helpful information on the investigation into the ’70/71 abuse, Mike. I’m very glad that the system worked, when it came to that particular investigation. It’s just so infuriating that, even with all of the rumors of his misbehavior for so many years, he was still either basically assumed to be a “good guy” by important Church leaders, or he was *actively protected* by at least some of them, when they should have been seriously investigating the rumors and working to get him out of active ministry much sooner.

  3. Seminarian Seminarian says:

    For the past year a number of current seminarians and ex seminarians in Southern California have been trying to get the attention of someone to help us bring to light the abuses that are being committed against seminarians here in Los Angeles. We have provided names and contact information, but no one seems to care. We warned several national and local news outlets that the next big crisis in the church was going to come from within. After the first wave, when many found themselves found out, most of these predators turned to within the ranks of seminarians. These are the same priests that caused the tragedies of the first wave. The decades of abuse have continued, except that now they have turned to us, seminarians. Many of us are completely vulnerable. We have left everything to follow our vocation. We have no money, no roof over our heads except the roof here at the seminary so the only thing we can do is bear the abuse with the hope that Christ’s justice will triumph. The bishops turn a blind eye and continue to assign to the seminary priests who have not been good in parishes, but here, they are given free reign over us, the seminarians.

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