Commentary: McCarrick report must be the Catholic Church’s #MeToo moment


November 14, 2020

By Michael McGough

The explosive inquiry leaves the strong impression that allegations of exploiting young adults weren’t treated as seriously as the abuse of minors.

The Vatican this week released an eye-popping report documenting how Theodore McCarrick, the defrocked former cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C., ascended in the church hierarchy despite warnings that he had sexually harassed young seminarians.

The report, released by the Vatican secretary of state’s office, assigns primary responsibility for McCarrick’s advancement to Pope John Paul II, a favorite of Catholic conservatives, and essentially exonerates the current pope, Francis. It discredits the suggestion by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a retired Vatican diplomat, that Francis had relaxed “sanctions” imposed by now retired Pope Benedict XVI. (Vigano also accused Francis of being close to a “homosexual current” in the church.)

In assessing blame for the rise of McCarrick, a prodigious fundraiser, the report confirms much that was already obvious from decades of scandal over the church’s cover-up of sexual abuse of minors. When confronted with suspicious behavior or even specific evidence, church authorities turned a blind eye or gave accused clerics the benefit of the doubt.

On Wednesday Pope Francis said, “I renew my closeness to victims of any abuse and commitment of the church to eradicate this evil.” It’s unclear, however, whether the McCarrick investigation will be an inflection point in the church’s newfound commitment to confronting sexual abuse by the clergy and abandoning a culture of cover-up.

In the aftermath of the McCarrick investigation, liberal and conservative Catholics probably will continue to refract the issue of clerical sexual abuse through their respective partisan lenses. Liberals will link the problem to mandatory celibacy for priests; conservatives will complain about a gay subculture in the clergy.

But there is one arguably new takeaway from the report: that the church is belatedly realizing that sexual abuse of children and adolescents, horrific as it obviously is, isn’t the only form of sexual predation by priests.

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.