The Holy See was made aware of sexual misconduct allegations against Theodore McCarrick before John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Washington DC in 2000, according to the Church's long awaited report published today.
The investigation into how Theodore McCarrick was promoted to Archbishop of Washington DC despite facing allegations of sexual misconduct, and made a cardinal a year later, finds an earlier inquiry was hampered by incomplete information.
McCarrick also strongly denied the allegations and was believed.
Running to more than 400 pages, the report took more than two years to complete and was complied following a trawl through the archives of the Roman Curia into documentation on McCarrick and conducting interviews with ninety witnesses which ranged in length from one to thirty hours. It is the first internal inquiry carried out by the Vatican into the handling of an abuse case that has been released to the public.
Carrying the title Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, the document unpacks in exhaustive detail what was known about McCarrick, and when, by high ranking churchmen.
McCarrick, now aged 90, was removed from the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis in 2018 when a credible allegation that he abused a minor was lodged with the Archdiocese of New York. The Pope then ruled he should be removed from the priesthood when a Church court found him guilty of abusing both minors and adults.
But the report shows that authorities in the Holy See were made aware of sexual misconduct allegations against McCarrick before John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Washington DC in 2000, and a cardinal the year later. When confronted with the allegations the Polish Pope carried out a secret inquiry which the Vatican report says received incomplete information. McCarrick also strongly denied the allegations and was believed.
“No procedure, even the most detailed, is free from error because it involves the consciences and decisions of men and women,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, admitted after the report’s publication.
“But the report will also have an effect in this respect: in making all those involved in such choices more aware of the weight of their decisions or omissions. These are pages that encourage us to reflect deeply and ask ourselves what more we can do in the future, learning from the painful experiences of the past.”
The Vatican’s inquiry also finds that in the early 1990s anonymous letters accusing McCarrick of paedophilia had been sent to the United States Bishops’ Conference, various cardinals in the United States and the papal ambassador to Washington. But the latter allegations were not lodged with Rome. The first allegation that McCarrick abused a minor did not come to the Holy See’s attention until after June 2017.
Cardinal Parolin argues that steps have been taken to prevent a repeat of McCarrick. Over the summer a new handbook for bishops and religious superiors ordered them to investigate anonymous allegations from third parties, while the 2019 law, Vos estis lux mundi, updates Church legislation to widen the definition of abuse to include abuses of authority and “me too” style offends.
Francis commissioned the McCarrick inquiry in September 2018 saying: “We will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead.” It came some weeks after a retired former papal ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, called on the Pope to resign for allegedly mishandling the McCarrick case. The report finds, however, that in 2012 Viganò had been ordered to investigate an allegation of misconduct against McCarrick but did nothing.