Pope Francis orders review of Vatican McCarrick files

By JD Flynn

Vatican City, Oct 6, 2018 / 08:09 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Saturday that it would review its files pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who has been accused in recent months of serially sexually abusing two teenage boys, and of sexually coercing and assaulting priests and seminarians during decades of ministry as a bishop.

The Archdiocese of New York has already conducted a formal investigation into one allegation that McCarrick serially sexually abused a teenage boy in New York, and announced in June that the allegation had been found credible.

In an Oct. 6 statement, the Vatican said that Pope Francis has decided to combine the information from that investigation “with a further thorough study of the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick, in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.”

“The Holy See is conscious that, from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances, it may emerge that choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues,” the statement added.

“However, as Pope Francis has said: ‘We will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead.’”

McCarrick is the former Archbishop of Washington, DC, and served before that as Archbishop of Newark, Bishop of Metuchen, and auxiliary bishop in New York.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked the pope for a thorough Vatican investigation- called an apostolic visitation- into McCarrick, and his ecclesiastical career in the U.S. Although DiNardo repeated that request during a Sept. 13 meeting between the pope and U.S. bishops’ conference leaders, the Vatican has thus far declined to order the visitation.

The investigation announced Oct. 6 is not an apostolic visitation. It has been announced as a review of documents already “in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See.”

Sources have confirmed to CNA that Pope Francis is scheduled to meet privately with DiNardo and Archbishop Jose Gomez, vice-president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, on Oct. 8.

A source familiar with the investigation told CNA that the Archdiocese of Washington has gathered additional information about McCarrick that could be included in the Vatican review.

At least some American bishops have had knowledge of some aspects of McCarrick’s alleged misconduct since 2005, when two NJ dioceses reached a legal settlement with some alleged victims of the archbishop. A further settlement was reached in 2007.

Questions have been raised about whether those bishops properly acted upon knowledge of allegations against McCarrick, and whether and when other American bishops, among them Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, had knowledge of the archbishop’s conduct. One American bishop, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, told a journalist in August that he had heard rumors in 2017 about sexual misconduct on the part of McCarrick, but declined to investigate them because they seemed unbelievable.

On Aug. 25, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., released a letter alleging that he had made reports about McCarrick’s misconduct to his superiors beginning in 2006, and that others had made reports about McCarrick’s actions beginning in 2000. He said those reports went largely ignored until Pope Benedict XVI imposed restrictions on McCarrick’s ministry in 2009 or 2010.

Among other things, Vigano alleged that Pope Francis lifted the restrictions on McCarrick’s ministry after his election to the papacy, and that McCarrick became an adviser to the pope.

The pope has declined to respond directly to Vigano’s letter.

In a subsequent letter, released Sept. 29, Vigano suggested that Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, had direct knowledge of the history of allegations and responses in McCarrick’s case, and urged him to “bear witness to the truth.”

While some claims made by the Vigano letter have been corroborated, the veracity of other claims have been called into question, leading to considerable controversy over its significance. Vigano has claimed that files in the archives of the Vatican and its nunciature- embassy- in the U.S. will corroborate his charges.

The Vatican’s Oct. 6 statement said that “both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for Bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.”

“The Holy Father Pope Francis renews his pressing invitation to unite forces to fight against the grave scourge of abuse within and beyond the Church, and to prevent such crimes from being committed in the future to the harm of the most innocent and most vulnerable in society.“

COMING UP: Archbishop Aquila supports USCCB Executive Committee’s call for independent investigation

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Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila has issued the following letter expressing his support for USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo’s and the Executive Committee’s call for an independent investigation in the wake of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s testimony released earlier this week:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Many of you are aware that this past weekend the former papal representative to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, released a testimony that makes serious allegations about the Archbishop McCarrick abuse case.

In my interactions with Archbishop Vigano I have found him to be a man of deep faith and integrity. I join Cardinal DiNardo and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Executive Committee in calling for the Holy See to conduct a thorough investigation that includes granting authority to a lay commission to examine the many questions that surround Archbishop McCarrick, such as who was involved in covering-up his gravely immoral behavior or failed to act to stop it.

As Cardinal DiNardo said on August 27, “The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.”

While righteous anger, deep frustration, and deep sorrow are understandable, and my heart breaks for the victims of abuse as well as for you that you must suffer this trial, we must all “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ the perfecter of faith.” He is our strength! He is the truth who will set us free!

Jesus asks each of us, “Who are you going to serve?” Will it be the Lord, or the false gods of today – power, careerism, entitlement, sexual promiscuousness, and so many others? While we are in the world, we are not of the world and we are called to be of Christ alone, deepening our closeness to him in the sacramental life of the Church!

The call to holiness is real and possible, as Jesus tells us, “for God all things are possible!” Yet, when we let the ways of the world form us rather than the Gospel and Jesus, when we put more trust in the world than in Jesus, we end up where we are today. While, this is not the first time in the history of the Church that she has been rocked by a lack of faith and immorality among her clergy, as history teaches, only a strong return to Jesus Christ and his ways will heal the horrific sinful breach that has taken place!

The Gospel reading from John 6 last Sunday presents us with Jesus’ challenging question after he taught about his Real Presence in the Eucharist. He asked Peter and the other disciples: “Do you also want to leave?” Peter responded with his great statement of faith that gets to the heart of the matter. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

We must pray for a deep faith in Jesus Christ, one that grows and deepens each day. We must live our lives in intimacy with Jesus, the Holy One of God! It is Jesus who will see us through this time of trial and purification, who will help us to live out the Beatitudes and be faithful to the commandments.

Know, my brothers and sisters, that you are in my prayers. Know that I am deeply grateful to you for your fidelity. I pray that your hearts and the heart of every disciple may be ever more conformed to the heart of Christ!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Archbishop Aquila

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“In communion with the Holy Father, I join the Executive Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in taking upon ourselves his exhortation, ‘this open wound [of abuse] challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice.’

“On August 1st, I promised that USCCB would exercise the full extent of its authority, and would advocate before those with greater authority, to pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. On August 16th, I called for an Apostolic Visitation, working in concert with a national lay commission granted independent authority, to seek the truth.  Yesterday, I convened our Executive Committee once again, and it reaffirmed the call for a prompt and thorough examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement.

“The recent letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò brings particular focus and urgency to this examination. The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.

“I am eager for an audience with the Holy Father to earn his support for our plan of action. That plan includes more detailed proposals to: seek out these answers, make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier, and improve procedures for resolving complaints against bishops. Inspired by his recent letter to the people of God, and his motu proprio of two years ago, As a Loving Mother, I am confident Pope Francis shares our desire for greater effectiveness and transparency in the matter of disciplining bishops. We renew our fraternal affection for the Holy Father in these difficult days.

“To the survivors of abuse and the families who have lost a loved one to abuse, I am sorry. You are no longer alone. Since 2002, hundreds of professionally trained staff across the country have been working with the Church to support survivors and prevent future abuse.  Nationwide, the Church has a zero-tolerance policy toward priests and deacons who abuse, safe environment training, background checks for those working around children, victim assistance coordinators, prompt reporting to civil authorities, and lay review boards in dioceses.

“In other ways, we have failed you. This is especially true for adults being sexually harassed by those in positions of power, and for any abuse or harassment perpetrated by a bishop. We will do better. The more she is buffeted by storms, the more I am reminded that the Church’s firm foundation is Jesus Christ. The failures of men cannot diminish the light of the Gospel. Lord, by the help of your mercy, show us the way to salvation.”