After the publication of his report on Theodore McCarrick, I wrote to Msgr. Figueiredo to thank him for his important contribution to cleaning up the corruption in the Church. I also asked if he was planning to address concerns that had been raised by CNA about the verification of his documentation on McCarrick, and his status with his home diocese of Newark, where he has reportedly refused to return after being recalled by Cardinal “Nighty night, baby” Tobin.
He told me he’d consider addressing these concerns in the future, but that he preferred to let the report have the attention for now, with the hope that it would “achieve its aim of fostering greater transparency for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, the good of the Church, and the salvation of souls.”
I said I understood, but I also warned him that I fully expected “that they will use anything they can to ‘kill the messenger,’ just as they have with Viganò.”
Today, in a piece by progressive Catholic journalist Robert Mickens of La Croix International, we see that he has already landed squarely in the crosshairs of a papal fanboy.
“It is only natural that, having lived in Rome and followed ecclesiastical affairs and politics for more than 30 years,” Mickens writes, “I get just a little skeptical when a cleric has a sudden conversion and starts airing the Church’s dirty laundry. There is often more than what meets the eye.”
“Without calling into question Msgr. Figueiredo’s integrity or motives,” Mickens adds — and really, perish the thought! — “there are a number of aspects of his personal history and vocation that should push any journalist to scrutinize more carefully the full reasons for his latest actions…”
Mickens goes on to assert that Figueiredo “knows an awful lot more than what he’s shared so fare in this parsimonious and careful selection of correspondence with Theodore McCarrick.”
McCarrick was, Mickens assures us, “Figueiredo’s most infuential and well-connected Church patron” — until he wasn’t. McCarrick is now, Mickens says, Figueiredo’s “greatest liability,” making it “understandable why the priest would want to distance himself from the man he once held in such high esteem.”
It’s a logical enough conclusion. But so what? The question that matters is: is the report an accurate representation of what happened with McCarrick?
Mickens avoids being heavy-handed as he details the history of Figueiredo and McCarrick, which began when the younger priest, who was born in Kenya and grew up in England, and whose journey to ordination transpired through involvement in the Neocatechumenate Way, and later missionary work in America and Africa, wound up in the diocese of Newark. It’s unclear, says Mickens, how Figueiredo wound up there, “but it is certain that he attended the fledgling Redemptoris Mater Seminary that the then-Archbishop McCarrick had just allowed the Neocats to open in the archdiocese. Figueiredo was in the seminary’s very first ordination class of 1994.”
Mickens’ history of Figueiredo, which is hidden behind La Croix’s irritating paywall, follows him from ordination in the mid-nineties all the way to the summer of 2016, at which point he says, ” It is at this point where the monsignor’s resume becomes murky.”
Mickens appears to think that the Monsignor’s motivation is not repentance — the latter cited his drunk driving arrest in England last year and his new embrace of therapy and sobriety as a catalyst for his “oppenness” — but rather a stalled ecclesiastical career. He notes that Figueiredo was looking for a permanent job in Rome, but despite some promising assignments, never seemed to land one.
The details of his various positions, however, appear to be little more than window dressing on the underlying purpose of the piece, which is to paint a close relationship between the Monsignor and his disgraced former “father-in-Christ,” McCarrick, and to cast doubt on the true motives of the author and his eponymous report, which drops a bomb right in the front yard of the Vatican.
This is the first such profile of Figueiredo I’ve seen, and perhaps it’s just journalistic curiosity from one of the more progressive, Francis-friendly corners of the Church, but perhaps it’s actually a shot across Figueiredo’s bow.
If it’s the latter, and he doesn’t back down, it certainly won’t be the last.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.