The friary in remote western Kansas that is now home to a disgraced former U.S. cardinal removed from ministry by Pope Francis over allegations of sexual abuse is just one block from an elementary school.
The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., confirmed in a statement Friday that ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick is living at St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, a rural town of about 1,200 that lies more than 400 kilometres west of Kansas City. The Friary is within a block of Victoria Elementary School.
News of McCarrick’s living arrangement took school officials by surprise, the Kansas City Star reported .
“I was never made aware of it until I found out through social media” on Friday, Victoria Elementary Principal Kent Michel said.
McCarrick, 88, was the retired Archbishop of Washington when he was removed from public ministry in June by Pope Francis after allegations that he sexually abused a teenager while a priest in New York more than 40 years ago were found to be credible by the church.
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Bishop Gerald Vincke of the Diocese of Salina, Kansas, who agreed to McCarrick’s new living arrangement, told the Star he was not aware of anyone with the church notifying the school of McCarrick’s presence.
“Regarding the school, Archbishop McCarrick is not allowed to make any public appearances or visit the school or do any ministry,” Vincke told the newspaper in an email. “He is confined to the friary to do penance and prayer. The friary is in the small town in Victoria. The friary is enclosed.”
The St. Louis-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called the move irresponsible.
“It boggles the mind that church officials are this reckless,” said David Closhessy, the former director of the advocacy group. “No cleric who’s been accused of abuse, certainly not one facing multiple allegations, should be anywhere around kids, especially not an elementary school.”
McCarrick was the Washington archbishop from 2000 to 2006, and previously one of the highest, most visible Catholic Church officials in the United States. He was heavily involved in the church’s response to allegations of priest abuse.
At the time of McCarrick’s June removal, the New Jersey archdioceses of Newark and Metuchen revealed that they had received three complaints from adults alleging misconduct and harassment by McCarrick and had settled two of them.
Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation on July 28, effectively stripping him of his cardinal’s title, and ordered him to live a lifetime of penance and prayer pending the outcome of a canonical trial.
A month later a former Vatican ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, rocked the Catholic Church by accusing Francis of rehabilitating McCarrick from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI over reports he slept with seminarians.
Vigano accused more than two dozen current and former Vatican officials, as well as a host of U.S. bishops and papal advisers, of being part of the coverup and called for Francis to resign over the scandal.
Francis on Saturday asked for daily prayers to protect the Catholic Church from what he says are “attacks by the devil,” in his latest response to the clerical sex abuse and coverup scandal.