March 3, 2020
JUST WHEN it seems there can be nothing more to learn about how former cardinal Theodore McCarrick misused his position and violated the public trust, another rock gets turned over. The latest disclosure: He funneled large sums from a charity account to a controversial religious community whose founder was found guilty by the Vatican of sexual misconduct. In keeping with the sorry way it has handled the decades-long clergy sexual-abuse scandal, the Catholic Church has decided to stonewall rather than be forthcoming.
Only because of reporting by The Post’s Shawn Boburg and Robert O’Harrow Jr. have we learned that Mr. McCarrick, who served as archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006 and last year was defrocked for sexual abuse of minors and misconduct with adults, gave nearly $1 million to the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) from 2004 to 2017. The religious community was founded in Argentina in 1984 by priest Carlos Buela, who the Vatican in 2016 determined had committed sexual improprieties with adult seminarians. Mr. McCarrick had helped the order as it expanded into the United States in the early 2000s, giving it control of a church-owned property in suburban Maryland to launch a small seminary, but the extent of the ties and flow of money between the two clerics was not known.
What exactly was the purpose of these gifts — some as large as $50,000 — from a charitable account Mr. McCarrick controlled at the Washington Archdiocese? Who or what was the source of the money? A spokeswoman for the archdiocese, Paula Gwynn Grant, told Post reporters that Mr. McCarrick himself raised the money for the special fund and spent it as he chose. “Therefore, any information needed about these donations, including the specific amount, must be asked of Mr. McCarrick,” she said. Never mind that Mr. McCarrick has been squirrelled away to live at some undisclosed location. When we pressed for more information, Ms. Grant emailed that the money was used by IVE and its sister branch “to support their mission to educate, house, care for and serve many of the most disadvantaged members of our community.” She directed further questions to those religious orders.
It is likely that Mr. McCarrick raised the money under the auspices of his church position (the fund was titled “Archbishop’s Special Fund”), so it is disingenuous for the church to act as if it had nothing to do with these donations. And since the church has a religious exemption from having to file tax forms required of other nonprofits detailing their finances (called Form 990s and available to the public), people who gave money have no way of knowing what it was used for.
Time and time again, as scandals have besmirched the church’s reputation and mission, Catholic officials have said they have learned their lesson and will do better and be transparent with information. Time and time again, they fall short. The refusal to get to the bottom of — and explain — these questionable transactions is another sad sign of the church’s failure to come to grips with the harm it has caused and its disdain for parishioners whom it looks to for financial support.
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