US Catholic bishops’ response to McCarrick report is sad but predictable

National Catholic Reporter

November 23, 2020

By Thomas Reese

The discussion of the Vatican report on ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick by the U.S. bishops at their annual fall meeting was sad but predictable — sad because the bishops failed to communicate that they understood the report’s implications; predictable in that some bishops defended John Paul II against the report’s finding that the pontiff shared culpability in the McCarrick case.

The report, released Nov. 10, acknowledged that despite it being known that McCarrick was sleeping with seminarians, he was promoted to the Archdiocese of Washington and made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II.

It would have been better for the bishops to acknowledge the pope’s failure and argue that if he were alive today, he would be apologizing for his mistakes. In their 45-minute public discussion of the report, followed by 90 minutes of talking privately about it, they did neither.

Bishops are reluctant to criticize John Paul’s record of appointing and promoting bishops because most of them were appointed the same way by the same pope. To acknowledge his failures would open the possibility that they, too, were selected through a defective process that stressed loyalty over other factors.

“It can’t be a bad system; it selected me,” would be the attitude of most bishops.

Only Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston suggested that the process should be improved. He proposed giving 30 to 60 days at the end of the process for people to comment on a candidate before his appointment was finalized. That way, he said, “We might avoid appointing someone to the episcopacy who did not deserve it.”

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