May 28, 2019
Correspondence obtained by Crux from an ex-aide to Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal laicized over charges of sexual misconduct and abuse, confirms that restrictions on McCarrick were imposed by the Vatican in 2008. McCarrick also claims that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, then the Archbishop of Washington, was aware of them and involved in conversations about their implementation.
Though the details of those restrictions have never been made public, the correspondence shows McCarrick promising not to travel without express Vatican permission and to resign from all roles at the Vatican and within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), while contesting an instruction to stop coming to Rome.
In one letter, McCarrick suggests the Vatican wanted to “avoid publicity” and thus kept the restrictions confidential.
The correspondence also shows that despite the restrictions, McCarrick gradually resumed traveling and playing prominent diplomatic roles under both Popes Benedict XVI and, to a greater extent, Francis, including talks with China that may have helped shape a controversial 2018 deal between Rome and Beijing over the appointment of bishops.
McCarrick’s activities were not carried on in secret, as he regularly wrote to Pope Francis between 2013 and 2017 to brief him on his trips and activities.
In the correspondence, McCarrick denies any sexual misconduct.
“I have never had sexual relations with anyone,” he wrote, but he does admit to “an unfortunate lack of judgment” in sharing his bed with seminarians in their twenties and thirties.
“As the problems of sexual abuse began to surface, I realized this was imprudent and stupid and it stopped,” he wrote in a 2008 letter to a senior Vatican official.
From an examination of the correspondence, which involves emails and private letters from McCarrick over the period 2008-2017, it appears that senior Church officials, including the Vatican’s Secretary of State under Pope Benedict XVI, the head of the Congregation for Bishops, and the pope’s ambassador in the U.S., were aware of the informal restrictions, and whatever their response may have been as McCarrick resumed his activities, it did not prevent him from doing so.
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