How journalists can nail down the rest of the Cardinal McCarrick story -- for good

More came out over the weekend on the ongoing Cardinal Theodore McCarrick scandal, whereby one of the most famous personalities of the American Catholic Church has been revealed as someone who abused teen-aged boys and also pressured seminarians into sex play and sharing his bed.

Like Watergate, increased reporting is bringing out new revelations about this patriarch who many of his followers knew as “Uncle Ted.” But there's a lot more to be had on this story, and I’m suggesing, further down in this post, a few more steps that reporters can take to get to the bottom of it. Please start with what I've posted about McCarrick here and here, as well as what tmatt has written.

This Associated Press story that was released on Saturday and this Washington Post story that came out Sunday night told us some details we hadn’t already known from earlier New York Times stories that have been leading the pack on the scandal.

AP’s Nicole Winfield posed the question of whether McCarrick can lose his red hat.

Revelations that one of the most respected U.S. cardinals allegedly sexually abused both boys and adult seminarians have raised questions about who in the Catholic Church hierarchy knew -- and what Pope Francis is going to do about it.
If the accusations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick bear out -- including a new case reported Friday involving an 11-year-old boy -- will Francis revoke his title as cardinal? Sanction him to a lifetime of penance and prayer? Or even defrock him, the expected sanction if McCarrick were a mere priest? …

Let's not hold our breath on that one.

CruxNow reports that Fordham University just revoked an honorary doctorate they gave the cardinal some time ago, but I don’t see cardinals getting defrocked.

The matter is now on the desk of the pope, who has already spent the better part of 2018 dealing with a spiraling child sex abuse, adult gay priest sex and cover-up scandal in Chile that was so vast the entire bishops' conference offered to resign in May.
And on Friday, Francis accepted the resignation of the Honduran deputy to Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is one of Francis' top advisers. Auxiliary Bishop Juan Jose Pineda Fasquelle, 57, was accused of sexual misconduct with seminarians and lavish spending on his lovers that was so obvious to Honduras' poverty-wracked faithful that Maradiaga is now under pressure to reveal what he knew of Pineda's misdeeds and why he tolerated a sexually active gay bishop in his ranks.

Do these folks just not learn? Once news of priestly sexual abuse and ensuing lawsuits against the U.S. Catholic Church began hitting the fan 16 years ago, did foreign bishops just assume this ball would never land in their court? 

The McCarrick scandal poses the same questions. It was apparently an open secret in some U.S. church circles that "Uncle Ted" invited seminarians to his beach house, and into his bed.
While such an abuse of power may have been quietly tolerated for decades, it doesn't fly in the #MeToo era. And there has been a deafening silence from McCarrick's brother bishops about what they might have known and when.

Reporting suggestion #1 -– Those brother bishops knew a lot, so, someone, please, someone tackle Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, successor to Cardinal McCarrick since 2006.

What are the odds that Wuerl knew nothing about all this? What is he thinking now? He’ll dodge questions about McCarrick, so the trick is to ask Wuerl about himself. Did he do anything behind the scenes to edge McCarrick out of the picture?

I covered the Pope Benedict’s 2008 visit to Washington, D.C. (and other cities) and I remember McCarrick was sidelined during those festivities. Rumor was that he was not happy about being deprived of a bigger role.

Look for this fact: Whose idea was it to take McCarrick down a peg, especially since McCarrick has always been a key source for national media?

Then again, the Vatican didn't seem to be sidelining McCarrick. In 2007, he was named a papal special envoy to an international conference in Greenland on the environment. He got a lot of press about that. He also spoke at the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

When the Post story by Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zuazmer came up on the paper’s web site on Sunday evening, it was the 15th story from the top. Mostly political stories, plus a feature about a pet dog in China, were above it. By Monday afternoon (EDT), it was off the landing page. There was a link to it in a strip titled "In the News" atop the page, but it's easy to miss. Why isn't the paper pushing this story more? 

It added to the information that other outlets have reported, including a few more details about the second man who got a $100,000 settlement from the Catholic Church. I’ve referred to this man in previous posts as someone who lives –- or has lived -– in Hickory, N.C.

McCarrick later took him to dinner in New York City and to an apartment, where there was one bed, he wrote (then-Metuchen Bishop Edward) Hughes. Feeling “totally frightened and trapped,” he went to bed, and McCarrick rubbed his crotch, he wrote.
Hughes wrote back to the therapist saying that he found the allegations “very troubling” but that he wasn’t sure he believed them. “At the present time, I do not have sufficient factual basis for making such a determination.”
Hughes died in 2012. … Calls made to the man were not returned.

Reporting suggestion #2 –- It’s time that folks covering this story drove to North Carolina and found this man. Of course he’s not going to return calls.

Remember “All the President’s Men?” Did Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward simply rely on the telephone? No, they went and knocked on peoples’ doors. That’s what it is going to take to find this guy.

Hint: Our friend in North Carolina once had a lawyer, Steve Rubino of Margate City, N.J. This old Associated Press article will tell you more about him although last I talked with this attorney, he had retired. Another AP piece, dated 2010, interviews Rubino, and a few other lawyers, on the horrible personal toll that representing victims took on their personal lives and marriages.

Rubino told AP he had lost his (Catholic) faith over it. He’d be in his late 60s by now and he’d still know stuff. Go find him. 

One new piece of information the Post reported that I’ve not seen elsewhere had to do with yet another McCarrick victim.

In August 2011, a Brazilian priest filed a complaint against the Newark and Metuchen ­dioceses, saying that in the 1990s McCarrick invited him to a beach house in Sea Girt, N.J., and “inappropriately used his power . . . by forcing Plaintiff to engage in sexual acts.” The complaint says the then-bishop “persuaded” the man to take off his clothes, forced “unwanted” sexual activity on him -- both at the beach house and at the Waldorf Astoria.
“Plaintiff was fearful and repulsed,” said the complaint filed in Superior Court of New Jersey. “Cardinal McCarrick, through manipulation, deception and fraud . . . attempted to convince Plaintiff that engaging in the sexual relationship with Cardinal McCarrick was a necessary and accepted practice in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.”
According to the complaint, the man told another priest of the diocese, as well as Hughes -- who was the Metuchen bishop -- who “advised Plaintiff to forget about the sexual incidents conducted by Cardinal McCarrick and to forgive him for the good of the Roman Catholic Church.”

There’s more to this fascinating story in the Post, but I was scratching my head. Where had this guy come from?

I’ve looked at my notes taken while I was researching all this from 2008-2011 and sure enough, there was “an older priest (who came) from Brazil to Metuchen,” one of my sources told me then. “McCarrick took him under his wing and had sex with him and said this is how we do it in America.”

By now, other media are asking how widespread McCarrick’s practices were and whether the clergy who worked with him are part of a network of bishops who ignored the abuse or are sexually active themselves. Elizabeth Yore asks in The Remnant about Cardinal Kevin Farrell, once an auxiliary bishop for the Washington archdiocese under McCarrick, how much he knew of the latter’s predilections.

Rod Dreher, a fellow journalist who’s been following this tale even longer than I have, talks about clergy networks and sexually compromised bishops here. Read the stuff about Farrell toward the end of the post, especially about his and McCarrick's coat of arms, which appears with this post. 

Reporting suggestion #3 -- Ask WAY more questions. It's time to dust off those sex abuse sources from your Rolodex and email files. For those of you new to the story, there's a lot of folks out there: Richard Sipe, Tom Doyle, Lee Podles and others who've been investigating this mess for years. Rod Dreher mentions here there was a group of some eight Catholic laymen and one priest who heard that McCarrick might be elevated to cardinal and went to Rome in the late 1990s to beg the Vatican to keep him in New Jersey. 

I've recently talked with the priest who was closely connected with that group. It can't be too hard to find out who else was in it and ask them what they knew and how they knew it. Track them down. 

I'm glad that the Times and the Post are following this story but it says something about the thin ranks of religion reporters out there on major newspapers that more of them aren't following this. A month has gone by since the first revelations came out. Compared to the huge coverage by heaps of reporters last year on Judge Roy Moore, I'm not seeing a whole lot of journalistic resources being expended on McCarrick. 

It doesn't matter that he's retired. The story of networks of gay clergy and bishops, the ruined lives of molested children and the involvement of Pope Francis -- as well as two popes previous to him -- go way beyond one man. 

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