November 10, 2020
By Nicole Winfield
A Vatican investigation into former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick found that bishops, cardinals and popes downplayed or dismissed multiple reports of sexual misconduct and determined that Pope Francis merely continued his predecessors’ handling of the predator until taking action when a former altar boy alleged abuse.
The Vatican took the extraordinary step Tuesday of publishing its two-year, 449-page internal investigation into the American prelate’s rise and fall in a bid to restore credibility to the U.S. and Vatican hierarchies, which have been shattered by the McCarrick scandal.
The report put the lion’s share of blame on a dead saint: Pope John Paul II, who appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington, D.C., in 2000, despite having commissioned an inquiry that confirmed he slept with seminarians. The report found that John Paul believed McCarrick’s last-minute, handwritten denial: “I have made mistakes and may have sometimes lacked in prudence, but in the seventy years of my life I have never had sexual relations with any person, male or female, young or old, cleric or lay,” McCarrick wrote.
But the report also charted the alarm bells that were ignored, excused or dismissed in 1992-93 when six anonymous letters were sent to U.S. church officials and the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S. alleging McCarrick was a “pedophile” who would sleep in the same bed with young men and boys. Those alarms continued, when a Catholic psychiatrist traveled to the Vatican in 1997 to report that his priest-patient was a victim of McCarrick’s sexual abuse.
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