The Catholic Church scandal casts a shadow over the season. But Christmas is a time for hope

Washington Post

December 24, 2018

By Elizabeth Bruenig

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.

The notes still come. (“It’s just so bad, and every time I think we’ve hit bottom, we break through and start falling again,” one said recently. “I just put my kids to bed and am just sitting in the dark weeping and furious and sad.”) I understand why. Since this summer’s Pennsylvania grand jury report and the unmasking of McCarrick, there have been more disturbing revelations. Within the past three months, a whistleblower came forward with evidence that the diocese of Buffalo’s list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse was woefully short, and that allegedly abusive priests had been allowed to remain in ministry for years; the Vatican commanded a convention of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops not to vote on resolutions intended to respond to the sex-abuse crisis; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan accused the archdiocese of Chicago of failing to investigate or publicly name more than 500 priests accused of sexual abuse; and several Jesuit priests accused of sexual abuse were found to be housed on Gonzaga University’s campus, unbeknownst to the campus community.

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.