Well, after much delaying, the McCarrick report has finally been released — you can grab it from the Vatican website as a PDF — and it weighs in at a whopping 461 pages. (UPDATE: There’s an executive summary from Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication, available via Ed Pentin here. It’s worth noting, as Pentin does, that there was no press conference for the release of this document. No doubt they’re hoping it will disappear behind the smokescreen of ongoing American election coverage.)
I’ll tell you this much right now: I’m probably not going to read it in any depth, because I’ve got too much else going on for this to be what the next week of my life looks like:
If the report could be relied upon to actually divulge what certain important prelates knew and when they knew it, I’d have more interest. But initial analysis from those who’ve already spent time with the document indicates the blame for what happens falls pretty much anywhere but in the vicinity of Francis and friends.
Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press opens her piece this morning with this:
A Vatican investigation into former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has found that a series of bishops, cardinals and popes downplayed or dismissed reports of sexual misconduct with seminarians, and determined that Pope Francis merely continued his predecessors’ handling of the predator until a former altar boy alleged abuse.
That’s all he did. He “merely continued” the way things were being handled (despite persistent rumors and that pesky papal nuncio warning him about McCarrick back in 2013). The buck doesn’t even slow down with him.
Notable blowhardian George Weigel says that the report contains “no smoking gun,” but indicates a “massive institutional system failure.” Weigel, who seems content to blame a “dysfunctional” “clerical caste system” that McCarrick “successfully gamed,” asserts — entirely without substantiation — that “the vast amount of documentation supporting the report, and even the lengthy period of its preparation, tell against” the suspicion that the report is “another Vatican exercise in damage control … however reasonable it might seem.”
This is nonsense.
Asking this Vatican (specifically the Secretariat of State, which published this report) to investigate the McCarrick fiasco is like asking the DNC to investigate Democratic voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Let’s have another look at the original testimony of Archbishop Vigano in 2018 to highlight the absurdity of expecting answers from this hive of scum and villainy:
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the current Secretary of State, was also complicit in covering up the misdeeds of McCarrick who had, after the election of Pope Francis, boasted openly of his travels and missions to various continents. In April 2014, the Washington Times had a front page report on McCarrick’s trip to the Central African Republic, and on behalf of the State Department no less. As Nuncio to Washington, I wrote to Cardinal Parolin asking him if the sanctions imposed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict were still valid. Ça va sans dire that my letter never received any reply!
Cardinals Leonardo Sandri, Fernando Filoni and Angelo Becciu, as Substitutes of the Secretariat of State, knew in every detail the situation regarding Cardinal McCarrick.
[T]he Pope asked me in a deceitful way: “What is Cardinal McCarrick like?” I answered him with complete frankness and, if you want, with great naiveté: “Holy Father, I don’t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation for Bishops there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.” The Pope did not make the slightest comment about those very grave words of mine and did not show any expression of surprise on his face, as if he had already known the matter for some time, and he immediately changed the subject. But then, what was the Pope’s purpose in asking me that question: “What is Cardinal McCarrick like?” He clearly wanted to find out if I was an ally of McCarrick or not.
Back in Washington everything became very clear to me, thanks also to a new event that occurred only a few days after my meeting with Pope Francis. When the new Bishop Mark Seitz took possession of the Diocese of El Paso on July 9, 2013, I sent the first Counsellor, Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, while I went to Dallas that same day for an international meeting on Bioethics. When he got back, Monsignor Lantheaume told me that in El Paso he had met Cardinal McCarrick who, taking him aside, told him almost the same words that the Pope had said to me in Rome: “the Bishops in the United States must not be ideologized, they must not be right-wing, they must be shepherds….” I was astounded! It was therefore clear that the words of reproach that Pope Francis had addressed to me on June 21, 2013 had been put into his mouth the day before by Cardinal McCarrick.
Pope Francis has repeatedly asked for total transparency in the Church and for bishops and faithful to act with parrhesia. The faithful throughout the world also demand this of him in an exemplary manner. He must honestly state when he first learned about the crimes committed by McCarrick, who abused his authority with seminarians and priests.
In any case, the Pope learned about it from me on June 23, 2013 and continued to cover for him. He did not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on him and made him his trusted counselor along with Maradiaga.
Winfield claims that
A summary of the report from the Vatican 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 summary says John Paul believed McCarrick’s last-ditch, handwritten denial.
Weigel, who is arguably the most staunch JPII defender in the world, sees things differently:
The report does indicate that Cardinal John O’Connor of New York thought the rumors sufficiently troubling that he raised cautions about McCarrick’s promotion from Newark to a traditional cardinalatial see: cautions that Pope John Paul II originally accepted. But then McCarrick, a practiced and persuasive prevaricator, swore in a duplicitous letter to John Paul II’s secretary that none of it was true. And John Paul believed him – perhaps influenced by the incomplete information the Holy See had received from three American bishops asked to look into the McCarrick rumors after O’Connor had raised his concerns; perhaps influenced as well by his experience of the Polish secret police using charges of sexual impropriety to impugn priests and bishops . The suggestion in some quarters that John Paul II and his closest associates somehow knew about McCarrick’s wickedness and proceeded with his promotion anyway is falsified and rebutted by the report, as it should be. Even brilliant and holy men – even saints – can be deceived.
McCarrick’s appointment to Washington and his red hat followed, but the basic damage had been done long before John Paul II was deceived. The damage had been done because, throughout his pre-Washington career and indeed before his appointment as auxiliary bishop of New York, the clerical caste system had protected him, such that his skills and talents were visible, not his duplicities and perversions. That was system failure.
It’s easier, I suppose, to blame system failure than to admit that John Paul II manifested some of the worst administrative judgment in the Church in living memory. Both the McCarrick and Maciel scandals happened on his watch, to say nothing of the countless other terrible appointments he made, including raising Bergoglio to the cardinalate in 2001.
And indeed, Weigel lays his bias bare when he writes:
Those serious about genuine, evangelically-oriented Catholic reform, rather than in score-settling or point-scoring in the internal Catholic culture wars, will thus focus their post-report attention on ensuring that the protective measures that have been put in place in the Church since the Long Lent of 2002 function properly, so that there are no repetitions of the tawdry tale of Theodore McCarrick.
He seems to be confused about the differences between point-scoring and accountability; systems may wind up broken, but the judgment of the men who govern those systems ultimately matter most. The Church is not some automated process that needs to simply be given a tune up.
But Weigel is the sort of commentator so immune to healthy skepticism that he believes the fact that this report, produced by some of the very people most strongly accused of knowing about McCarrick and covering up for him, proves that those people didn’t know. Because, you know, they didn’t come right out and admit it within the report:
One final note: the extensive documentation in the McCarrick Report should put paid to the mantra that has been chanted since McCarrick’s 2018 downfall: Everyone knew. That is simply not true. Not only did “everyone” not know; no one knew with certainty about McCarrick’s serial predations at the various key points at which he ascended the ranks of the hierarchy. The report illustrates in detail a fact already known, i.e., that there were multiple rumors about McCarrick’s behavior. That those rumors were not more thoroughly investigated is a prime example of the system failure evident in this entire affair. But “everyone” did not know, and those who continue to insist otherwise are either ignorant or agenda-driven.
I need to find a bridge to sell this man.
Rod Dreher, on the other hand, is far more realistic:
So, the McCarrick Report blames the dead Pope and the retired Pope, but exonerates the current Pope by saying that he trusted the previous two popes. How convenient. I don’t believe it for a second. I believe this is likely a whitewash of Francis, though by no means does that put the blame entirely on him.
Nevertheless, the document paints a picture of Church corruption that is damning. We see an old boys network of churchmen who weren’t afraid to lie to the Pope to advance the career of McCarrick. McCarrick certainly wasn’t afraid to lie to the Pope about himself, and he even swore an oath that he was innocent. John Paul II’s judgment when it came to bishops was deficient — this we know. We see in this report evidence that he was blinded by deep clericalism.
I find it impossible to let JP2 off the hook because he was supposedly blinded by his Communist experience. Cardinal O’Connor was one of the most conservative prelates in the Church, and he warned the Holy Father not to advance McCarrick. I think John Paul just did not want to believe these things. Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna has said that on a different case, that of an Austrian cardinal, Grör, who had abused many boys, John Paul simply did not want to accept the truth. Schönborn has said that he had to admonish John Paul to act.
Ultimately, Theodore McCarrick’s success in the Church is chiefly the fault of John Paul II. I wish it weren’t so, but there it is.
I’ve seen Dreher accused by members of the Catholic commentariat of being complicit in the McCarrick scandal himself, because he didn’t report what he knew nearly two decades ago. But Rod tackles that as well:
Many of you who have followed my work for a while know that I first learned about McCarrick’s evil deeds in 2002. I knew of two laymen who had been part of an American private delegation to Rome, which had gone to urgently warn the Vatican not to move McCarrick to Washington and make him a cardinal, because he was a sex abuser. The first source told me it was true, but he wouldn’t go on the record. The second source reacted with shock when I asked him about it, and stammered that if it were true, he wouldn’t admit it “for the same reason Noah’s sons covered their father in his drunkenness.” In other words, to protect the Church.
I couldn’t write about the story without those men going on the record. But word got back to McCarrick, thanks to the priest who told me about those two trusting the wrong man, and McCarrick asked his private lawyer to call my boss and admitted that the story was true, but downplayed its significance, and asked to take me off the story. My boss refused, but there was no story anyway, because no one would go on the record. I did not have enough proof to write anything.
If either of those men — or any of the others, whose names are not known to me, on that mission to Rome — had come forward then, how different would things be today? What did they have to fear? They were laymen. No bishop was going to fire them, or harm them. Yet they kept their silence.
The hierarchy is chiefly to blame for McCarrick. But it’s not the only one at fault. The lack of moral courage of the laity is part of this story too.
There’s going to be a lot more discussion about this story, no doubt, but Archbishop Vigano’s response just hit my inbox, and I’m going to go get that published before any further comment from me.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher 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 eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.