The Washington Post
December 27, 2018
By Elizabeth Bruenig
Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly described the scope of a recent report by the Illinois attorney general into child sex abuse by Catholic priests. The report covered allegations that had gone unreported in Illinois, not just in the archdiocese of Chicago. This version has been updated.
Somehow it doesn’t come as a surprise that the allegations of sexual misconduct that finally brought down former cardinal and archbishop emeritus of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, happened at Christmastime. When he was removed from ministry in June, McCarrick stood accused of molesting a teenage boy while measuring him for a cassock for a special Christmas service in 1971, according to the victim, and then again in 1972, during preparations for that year’s Christmas service. Was there ever a faith for McCarrick other than opportunity?
Once the archdiocese of New York declared those allegations credible, other claims poured forth: The portrait that has emerged suggests McCarrick had been perpetrating sexual abuse against boys and young men for years, without a hitch in his rise through the ranks of the church. Shortly thereafter, McCarrick was moved to a friary on the lonely plains of Kansas.
It was around that time I started receiving emails from despondent Catholics in the D.C. area. McCarrick hadn’t been an anonymous priest, after all; he had been a major public figure, and the revelations about him were as shocking as they were plentiful. Some of the messages I received spoke of a loss of faith, despair, feelings of anger, confusion, emptiness. “There is little encouragement in the constant drama,” one wrote. “They have forgotten the quote, ‘What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?’ ” And another: “To say that my faith is being tested is an understatement. I’m trying my best now to just work and dedicate myself to truth.” And yet another: “The silence from the Vatican is deafening.” There were so many more. I printed a packet of them and took them along with me when I interviewed former close associates of McCarrick, so I could read some of them aloud. None of those conversations yielded anything, not even a hint of guilt.
Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.