Quick Hits: Cardinal Farrell’s new post, a priest’s belated vindication

By Phil Lawler
Catholic Culture / Trinity Communications
October 14, 2020

  • At Catholic World Report, J. D. Flynn offers some perceptive observations about the appointment of Cardinal Kevin Farrell to head a new committee charged with supervising financial transactions that involve Vatican secrets. Cardinal Farrell, Flynn reminds readers, is already the camerlengo, the official responsible for handling the material properties of the Holy See during a papal interregnum. So he has been given quite a bit of control over the Vatican’s financial affairs—which, I hardly need remind you—are currently in an uproar. “Information is currency in Rome,” Flynn remarks, “and Cardinal Farrell’s new position makes him uniquely informed, and therefore among the most powerful figures in Vatican leadership.”

    Cardinal Farrell’s full-time assignment, as prefect of the dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life—offers no suggestion of financial expertise. The Irish-born prelate’s track record gives absolutely no indication that he is the right man to crack down on questionable behavior. Cardinal Farrell, remember, was close to the late Father Marcial Maciel, the disgraced founder of the Legionaires of Christ. But Cardinal Farrell says that he knew nothing about Maciel’s disgraceful behavior. Later he was an auxiliary bishop in Washington, DC, where he worked closely with, and shared a home with, former cardinal Ted McCarrick. Cardinal Farrell says that he knew nothing about McCarrick’s disgraceful behavior. At a time when the Vatican is struggling to regain public confidence about its financial probity, cynics might wonder whether he was chosen for these sensitive posts because he is likely to crack down on any signs of financial impropriety, or because he can be relied upon not to notice them.

    J. D. Flynn, in his analysis of the latest appointment, does not make that cynical suggestion. But he does remark that apparently there is nothing in the Vatican’s long-awaited report on the McCarrick affair that weighed against that appointment. Which in turn suggests that either the Vatican investigation didn’t look too closely into Cardinal Farrell’s possible involvement—in which case skeptics mistrust the investigation—or the cardinal’s claims of innocence were examined carefully and found convincing—in which case skeptics will mistrust the investigation.

    Of course that assumes that the Vatican eventually does give a public accounting for the McCarrick scandal, as Pope Francis promised. It’s been two years now—eight months since Cardinal Parolin said that the report was essentially complete, and only waiting for the Pope’s approval—and we’re still waiting.
  • Please take another look at today’s CWN headline story about a Boston priest who has been cleared of sex-abuse charges. The Vatican determined that the charge against Father John Carroll was “unsubstantiated.” Yet the archdiocese reports that he is “will remain restricted from ministry.” Why? Is it because at the age of 91 he is no longer able to carry out his ministerial duties? If so, the archdiocese should have the decency to report that since he has been vindicated, he now has a new status. To say that he “remains” restricted implies that nothing has changed; the shadow over his priestly ministry remains. The archdiocese owes Father Carroll more than this bare-minimum announcement of the Vatican decision, after he languished for fifteen years in clerical limbo. His case is a sadly vivid illustration of how American Church leaders, who once ignored the rights of innocent children, now ignore the rights of accused priests.


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