Associated Press via Star-Tribune
November 18, 2020
By Nicole Winfield
Pope Francis’ famous quip “Who am I to judge?” could go a long way toward explaining his initial attitude toward Theodore McCarrick, the defrocked and disgraced American cardinal who was the subject of a two-year Vatican investigation that was released last week.
Francis uttered the line on July 29, 2013, four months into his pontificate, when he was asked en route home from his first papal trip about reports of a sexually active gay priest whom he had just promoted. His point: If someone violated the church’s teaching on sexual morals in the past but had sought forgiveness from God, who was he to pass judgment?
The comment won plaudits from the LGBT community and landed Francis on the cover of The Advocate magazine. But Francis’ broader tendency to blindly trust his friends and resist judging them has created problems seven years later. A handful of priests, bishops and cardinals whom Francis has trusted over the years have turned out to be either accused of sexual misconduct or convicted of it, or of having covered it up.
In short, Francis’ loyalty to them cost him credibility.
The Vatican report spared Francis blame for McCarrick’s rise in the hierarchy, faulting instead his predecessors for having failed to recognize, investigate or effectively sanction McCarrick over consistent reports that he invited seminarians into his bed.
Francis ultimately defrocked McCarrick last year after a Vatican investigation determined he sexually abused children as well as adults. Francis commissioned the more in-depth probe after a former Vatican ambassador alleged in 2018 that some two dozen church officials were aware of McCarrick’s sexual misconduct with adult seminarians but covered it up for two decades.
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