McCarrick Report: Vatican Misdirection
Even when it is self-exculpating, the Vatican’s report of this is self-contradictory. The money mattered — it was “weighed heavily” — but it didn’t clinch anything. The idea that McCarrick was simply making it rain all the time in the Church like a rapper showing off his boom-boom room on MTV Cribs apparently troubled nobody at all.
Hundreds of other little threads are left unexplored. How was it that experts on clerical sexual abuse knew and spoke openly about McCarrick’s reputation as creepy “Uncle Teddy” back in 2006, and McCarrick was fending off lawsuits throughout that decade, but the future cardinal living with him claimed, implausibly, to have no knowledge of anything beyond what he terms sordid rumors? The idea is ludicrous for anyone with the most passing familiarity with the culture of gossip among Catholic priests. And yet, that same cardinal is set to be in charge of the next conclave? What was it about John Paul II and figures such as McCarrick and Marcial Maciel, both prodigious fundraisers and obvious liars?
Why was McCarrick — so well-known for his reputation — living at a seminary in his retirement? Why was he one day hastily moved out into another parish rectory? What exactly did Cardinal Donald Wuerl, then archbishop of Washington, D.C., know? What about the multiple houses on the Jersey shore? Why did Vatican inquiries into seminaries during these decades not uncover the widespread culture of sexual license and abuse in many of them, which anyone who talks to churchmen knows about, and which is the subject of salacious books, and the bleedingly obvious reason for the dropout of many candidates for the priesthood?
How did it all work?
But that gets to the error behind the report. What is “institutional knowledge” and “decision-making”? The report is a kind of prophylactic against a real investigation. Instead of confessing to the Church the sins of its leaders with a degree of candor and humiliation, the report tells outsiders, if you looked at these selected documents, this is the most you could possibly prove against us. Ultimately, the report itself is a kind of moral heresy.
Instead of approaching the McCarrick case in a forensic — yes, inquisitorial — way, judging the bishops of the Church as men who have duties to the Church and God to confront evil, based on what we know, we have this petty bureaucratic account.
It is no coincidence that some of the key figures in the hierarchy today owe their rise to McCarrick, who, at 90, is still around. I hope he finds a truth-telling journalist and makes a final public confession before he goes.
Yesterday, a parish priest texted to say that he had read the report, and his take on it jibes with his long and unhappy experience in the Church: that the leadership class is disproportionately homosexual, and they cover up for each other’s deeds. I have not had a chance to read the entire report, but I would not be the least bit surprised. Based on the executive summary, and what MBD and others who have read it all are saying about it, it seems that this report says nothing about the intersection of gay sex and big money at senior levels of the Catholic Church. McCarrick is the living symbol of both. Over the years, I have had a number of people who are very much in a position to know talk about these things, never on the record. A very senior figure who had been part of the aborted clean-up of Vatican finances once told me that they had known that sexual corruption (always gay) was a serious problem in the Vatican, and they had known too that financial corruption was a problem. But it wasn’t until they started working on this case that they saw how deeply entwined the two are. A gay reader who lost his Catholic faith in seminary and dropped out e-mailed yesterday to say that reading the report brought him back to the things he saw on the inside that caused him to crack. He said, of the hierarchy, that “the amount of grooming and testing that happens is so orchestrated and intense” — meaning that they identify and promote fellow gay men willing to play the game, so to speak. He and I will be talking later about all this.
We might not begin to get a real idea of what happened with McCarrick until and unless federal authorities make a court case out of the US-based Papal Foundation, co-founded by McCarrick and allegedly used by him as a kind of slush fund to buy influence at the Vatican. Matthew O’Brien has written about this in the past at First Things.