Abuse victim advocates call Catholic Church defrocking of McCarrick ‘damage control’

By Lisa Kashinsky
February 17, 2019

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been defrocked after the Vatican found him guilty of sex abuse, but attorney Mitchell Garabedian, a longtime critic of the Catholic Church’s handling of decades of misconduct, says the latest crackdown is just “damage control.”

“The Catholic Church is trying to deceptively convince the public that they’ve fixed the problem when they are the problem,” said Garabedian, an advocate for victims of sexual abuse by priests. “Take away the robes and religion, and the priests are just criminals who either sexually abused children or who covered up the sexual abuse of children.”

Zach Hiner, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said McCarrick’s dismissal shows clergy preying on minors goes far beyond low-level priests.

“This problem exists at every level of the church. It’s not just bad priests here or there, it’s something that is systemic from the base-level staff to the highest level,” Hiner said.

McCarrick’s defrocking made the 88-year-old former archbishop of Washington, D.C., the highest-ranking clergyman and first cardinal to be punished by dismissal. Pope Francis last July removed McCarrick as a cardinal after a U.S. church investigation found credible an allegation that McCarrick fondled a teenage altar boy in the 1970s, reports state.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said McCarrick’s dismissal “is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated. No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the church.”

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, said the dismissal “is important in administering justice for the crimes and sins committed” by McCarrick, though it “cannot in and of itself provide healing for those so terribly harmed by the former archbishop’s scandalous violations of his ministry.”

O’Malley and DiNardo will attend a clerical sexual abuse summit Feb. 21-24 as the church remains embroiled in scandal. The Vatican’s ambassador to France is reportedly under investigation for sexual assault, and dioceses across the U.S. continue to release names of hundreds of priests who they say are credibly accused of sexual abuse.

Hiner said it’s “helpful for victims when they begin to see some punishment for people who may have hurt them,” but that it “doesn’t make it OK that church officials continue to minimize the depth of this crisis.”

Garabedian said the ongoing revelations are “damaging the reputation of the Catholic Church.”

“The Catholic Church cannot police itself when it comes to protecting the safety and welfare of children,” Garabedian said. “It is not possible that there’s so much sexual abuse that could have taken place without priests in high positions of power not knowing about it.”



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