Another big scoop by Catholic journalist Robert Duncan, writing from Rome. It’s behind a Catholic News Service paywall now, but here’s an excerpt:

A former nuncio to the United States acknowledged hearing rumors about the sexual misconduct of Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick already in 1994.

Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, who served as pro-nuncio to the United States from 1990 to 1998, told Catholic News Service Oct. 29 that he received a phone call from a woman in the months preceding St. John Paul II’s visit to the United States in 1995.

“I remember in 1994, during the preparation of the papal visit to New York, Newark and Baltimore,” Cardinal Cacciavillan said, “I received a telephone call” at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C.

According to the 93-year-old retired papal diplomat, the caller feared there would be a “media scandal if the pope goes to Newark,” Archbishop McCarrick’s diocese, because of “voices, voices (rumors) about McCarrick’s behavior with seminarians.”

Duncan goes on to quote the cardinal as saying that he took the accusation to Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, who reported back, after an investigation, that there would be no impediment to the Pope’s visit — in other words, McCarrick was in the clear.

Was O’Connor covering up for McCarrick? Or was O’Connor deceived? We can’t ask him, because he died in 2000. But somebody should ask Cardinal Timothy Dolan, O’Connor’s successor. The answer is in the files of the Archdiocese of New York, no doubt.

Good thing the US Department of Justice has just ordered every US Catholic diocese not to destroy documents related to the handling of sex abuse. The Attorney General of New York, who is conducting his own investigation, should also keep an eye out for evidence of Cardinal O’Connor’s investigation of McCarrick — if there was an investigation, and not a whitewash.

The point is, Cardinal McCarrick’s homosexual misconduct was on the Vatican’s radar as far back as 1994. This is a major development in the story.

UPDATE: Also breaking today, whistleblower Father Boniface Ramsey details in Commonweal his efforts to bring McCarrick to justice. Excerpts:

Sometime in the early ’90s (again, I no longer remember the exact date), the voting members of the faculty had their customary meeting at the end of the academic year to discuss the seminarians and their possible promotion to the next year. One of those seminarians was a man who, for several reasons, I believed should be expelled. I raised my concerns with the other voting members; they agreed with me, and the student was expelled. When I returned to the seminary to begin the next academic year, the rector (different than the one to whom I had brought my concerns some years previously) told me that McCarrick knew that I was largely responsible for the expulsion of the seminarian in question, and that in consequence he had removed me from the voting faculty. I have come to realize, in retrospect, that McCarrick must have learned this from another member of the voting faculty who was present, and that this was a breach of confidence.

Shortly after this I telephoned the archbishop of Louisville, Thomas Kelly, a friend of mine now deceased, to tell him what had happened. I recall what he said—that “we all know” that McCarrick had “picked up” someone at an airport. From what I understand, McCarrick had met a good-looking flight attendant and invited him to become a seminarian then and there. (I’ve been told this was not the only such spontaneous invitation.) Whether this person shared McCarrick’s bed at the beach house or anywhere else, I don’t know, but he was clearly significant enough in McCarrick’s eyes for McCarrick to fire me when I led the charge to have him expelled. I understood that the “we” of “we all know” meant McCarrick’s fellow bishops. This was my first inkling that knowledge of McCarrick’s behavior was not restricted to the seminary, or to the archdiocese of Newark, but was widespread among the American bishops.

A powerful ending:

One way to make up for this failure would be for the ecclesiastical authorities, including Pope Francis, to act in a manner that is not only fair and swift (justice delayed is justice denied), but that also makes sense to the general public. An example of what doesn’t make sense to most people was the 2004 appointment of Cardinal Law as archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome after his missteps as archbishop of Boston brought the abuse crisis to a head in 2002. The Vatican may have viewed this as a demotion, but to the majority of the laity it seemed like a rather cushy assignment. McCarrick has recently been relegated to a religious house in Salina, Kansas, where he is to live “a life of prayer and penance,” but such a discipline may sound medieval and all too remote from the common experience of most Catholics today. If he is guilty of what he has been accused of, and if prison is not an option because of the statute of limitations, McCarrick’s public removal from the priesthood, not just the College of Cardinals, would be an appropriate and generally understandable response to his crimes and sins. The laicization of the cleric who was perhaps the most public face of the institutional church in the United States would also demonstrate that the victims of abuse, both children and adults, count for more in the church than the institution. After all, that institution exists for the sanctification of the individual members of the Body of Christ; the members do not exist for the institution. Father, then bishop, then archbishop, then cardinal: Theodore McCarrick had those titles and the corresponding responsibilities for our sake; his betrayal of them for his own purposes has made them meaningless.

Read the whole thing.  Understand what Father Ramsey is saying: McCarrick — and the Church’s refusal to take his grave sins seriously (including three popes’ refusal) — has brought the entire hierarchy into disgrace.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis continues to say this is all Somebody Else’s Fault.

UPDATE.2: The entire Robert Duncan/CNS story is available here, on Crux.

UPDATE.3: Consider this passage from Catholic journalist Phil Lawler’s forthcoming new book in light of the above:

To advance through the ranks of the hierarchy in the late 20th century, clerics were expected to suppress problems rather than to confront them, to soothe the faithful rather than to rouse them, to conceal problems rather than admit them. In that atmosphere, when bishops learned that priests had molested young men, they did their best to “manage” the issue, to keep things running smoothly, above all to avoid calling public attention to the problem. So the abuse continued—just as the theological dissent and the liturgical abuse continued. But finally the cover-up of abuse failed; the truth of the scandal emerged. Now that the evidence that was suppressed for decades has exploded into public view, the bishops’ neglect is unmistakable.

If the fundamental problem facing the Church is dishonesty—a habit of deliberate ambiguity, a failure to grapple with hard truths—then the solution must be a candid, unapologetic proclamation of the truths of the Catholic faith. And if the bishops have lost their instinct for that forthright evangelical approach, then it falls upon lay Catholics—in this era, proclaimed by Vatican II as “the age of the laity”—to demand the truth and reclaim the Catholic tradition.