Every time I think that we’ve heard the last bit of news about former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, another wheel falls off that wagon.
Remember when the disgruntled Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò revealed last summer that McCarrick was punished by Pope Benedict XVI around 2008 for his sexual misdeeds with major restrictions on his movements? There was more. The letter also said that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, McCarrick’s successor as archbishop of the Washington archdiocese, knew all about this?
Lots of folks — including some in the media — trashed Viganò at the time for lying.
Well, lots of journalists owe him an apology for portraying him as a conservative shill. As we’ll see in a minute, Francis did everything he could to add to that impression. I’m not holding my breath for mea culpas, though. For months, Viganò stood alone. For months, some major newsrooms have been avoiding this story, big time.
But more evidence keeps pouring out. News that broke Tuesday revealed that Viganò was telling the truth and that Wuerl was more deceptive than we thought.
The latest revelations, released simultaneously by Crux and CBS and based on allegations by a priest well known to the media, reveal McCarrick’s amazing gall in simply ignoring the restrictions under which he was placed. From Crux:
ROME — Correspondence obtained by Crux from an ex-aide to Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal laicized over charges of sexual misconduct and abuse, confirms that restrictions on McCarrick were imposed by the Vatican in 2008. McCarrick also claims that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, then the Archbishop of Washington, was aware of them and involved in conversations about their implementation.
Though the details of those restrictions have never been made public, the correspondence shows McCarrick promising not to travel without express Vatican permission and to resign from all roles at the Vatican and within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), while contesting an instruction to stop coming to Rome. …
The correspondence also shows that despite the restrictions, McCarrick gradually resumed traveling and playing prominent diplomatic roles under both Popes Benedict XVI and, to a greater extent, Francis, including talks with China that may have helped shape a controversial 2018 deal between Rome and Beijing over the appointment of bishops.
A deal in China that is coming apart, by the way.
Having been at the Washington Times during the beginning of the restrictions, I remember McCarrick was given a very minor role during Benedict’s 2008 visit to Washington, DC, a few months before the restrictions were imposed. The cardinal definitely laid low for awhile. Crux continues:
In the correspondence, McCarrick denies any sexual misconduct.
“I have never had sexual relations with anyone,” he wrote, but he does admit to “an unfortunate lack of judgment” in sharing his bed with seminarians in their twenties and thirties.
“As the problems of sexual abuse began to surface, I realized this was imprudent and stupid and it stopped,” he wrote in a 2008 letter to a senior Vatican official.
From an examination of the correspondence, which involves emails and private letters from McCarrick over the period 2008-2017, it appears that senior Church officials, including the Vatican’s Secretary of State under Pope Benedict XVI, the head of the Congregation for Bishops, and the pope’s ambassador in the U.S., were aware of the informal restrictions, and whatever their response may have been as McCarrick resumed his activities, it did not prevent him from doing so.
The document from this former aidet is here. It is from the Rev. Anthony Figueiredo, a very well known person (with a gripping personal story about how his mother almost aborted him) in Catholic and secular media circles. His website shows that McCarrick was clearly sanctioned after two dioceses paid out expensive settlements to two former seminarians or priests who said they’d been sexually abused by him.
As for CBS, do watch this video atop this post. When the interviewer asks why the priest is spilling the beans months nearly a year after news broke about the cardinal, the priest says:
This not just about McCarrick. This is about future cases. Perhaps there are other bishops out there who’ve had restrictions imposed upon them.
Really? What is he getting at?
What’s really odd in all this is that Figueiredo is a longtime CBS News papal consultant. So — he had access to all sorts of media and only chose to drop this bomb now? What not last August when Viganò was talking?
What’s been interesting is the response of the media that’s been covering this drama for 11 months. I suspect reporters knew that something was up. Usually when you follow something like this, you know who the players are and what they’re about to leak to the media.
The Figueiredo revelations landed early on Tuesday. By the end of the day, the Washington Post’s Chico Harlan had this story up that essentially repeats what Crux had:
ROME — As the reeling Catholic Church reckons with its culture of secrecy, one priest on Tuesday appeared to take matters into his own hands.
Saying he wanted “to contribute to a new culture in the Church,” an aide to former cardinal Theodore McCarrick released excerpts from emails and letters laying out how the Vatican tried to quietly sanction McCarrick years before he was defrocked for sexual abuse.
The letters portray McCarrick as ignoring the Vatican’s restrictions almost as quickly as they were put in place — while senior church leaders did nothing to stop him. One figure who was reportedly informed of the restrictions was Cardinal Donald Wuerl, McCarrick’s successor as archbishop of Washington, who resigned last fall amid criticism of how he handled abuse claims.
How about the New York Times, the other U.S. newspaper that — at one point — was breaking important stories on the McCarrick affairsr?
Well, in a juxtaposition of bizarre timing, it turns out that Pope Francis recently gave an interview with a Mexican journalist that also came out on Tuesday. In it, Francis talked about how he “knew nothing” about McCarrick’s past until a year ago.
The Times’ story, on its site Tuesday, was a bit odd. First, it concentrated on Francis.
ROME — For nearly a year, Pope Francis remained mostly silent in the face of a searing accusation by a former papal ambassador to the United States that he knew, and did nothing about, the sexual misconduct of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick — a silence that fueled criticism that he was tone deaf on the issue of sex abuse that was plaguing his church.
But in an interview published Tuesday … he directly denied the accusation.
“About McCarrick I knew nothing. Obviously, nothing, nothing,” he said in the wide-ranging interview with the Mexican television network Televisa, a transcript of which was also published by the Vatican’s own news outlet, Vatican News. He added that before a church investigation reported the misconduct, “I knew nothing, no idea.”
Well, if he had “no idea,” then he was the most misinformed person in Rome, as everyone else at the Vatican seemed to be well aware of McCarrick’s restrictions –- and how he was ignoring them. The Times also noted:
Nothing in the correspondence suggested that Pope Francis knew of the sanctions, and he said in the interview that he wanted journalists to find out for themselves that it was baseless.
Then the Times piece jumps to a quote by Francis from last August; not yesterday’s interview by the Mexican journalist.
This was a clever sleight of hand. Did Francis actually tell the Mexican that McCarrick’s charges were “baseless”? I looked at the closest thing the Times provided as a transcript but didn’t see it.
We find a more extensive description of the Televisa interview –- and more of the transcript -– on the LifesiteNews page. It’s quite informative and explains the subtleties of what Francis actually said along with a slap by the pope against Viganò’s brother.
Fortunately, Viganò had a quote ready to go on Tuesday.
In comments to LifeSite following the release of the interview, Archbishop Viganò said: “What the Pope said about not knowing anything is a lie. [...] He pretends not to remember what I told him about McCarrick, and he pretends that it wasn’t him who asked me about McCarrick in the first place.”
Read more of Viganò’s comments at Lifesite. The pope is clearly dodging direct comments about what he knew and when he knew it. I don’t expect anything new out of that quarter.
But maybe there are other Figueiredos out there.