Catholic leaders react to McCarrick resignation from College of Cardinals

In this Wednesday, March 4, 2015, file photo, Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick speaks during a memorial service in South Bend, Ind. Pope Francis has accepted U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick's offer to resign from the College of Cardinals following allegations of sexual abuse, including one involving an 11-year-old boy, and ordered him to conduct a "life of prayer and penance" in a home to be designated by the pontiff until a church trial is held, the Vatican said Saturday, July 28, 2018. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

The fallout from accusations of sexual misconduct by Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., whose resignation from the College of Cardinals Pope Francis accepted on July 29, continued over the weekend, with some church leaders calling for reform.

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany recently encouraged a priest in his diocese to go public with claims of sexual harassment against the former cardinal, published in an interview in America. On July 29, he wrote in a letter to his priests that “many of our faithful are now feeling betrayed and abandoned by their spiritual fathers, especially the bishops.”

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When allegations first surfaced regarding then-Cardinal McCarrick last month, some church officials called for new regulations and policies that apply to charges of misconduct and mismanagement against bishops. But in his letter, Bishop Scharfenberger said such changes alone will not be enough to address the church’s failings.

“More words are not going to repair, let alone restore, the damage that has been done,” he wrote. “Lawyering, pledges and changes in the bureaucratic structures and policy—however well intentioned—cannot do it either.

“More words are not going to repair, let alone restore, the damage that has been done,” Bishop Scharfenberger wrote. “Lawyering, pledges and changes in the bureaucratic structures and policy—however well intentioned—cannot do it either.”

“I do not see how we can avoid what is really at the root of this crisis,” he said, “sin and a retreat from holiness, specifically the holiness of an integral, truly human sexuality.” The bishop also encouraged more victims of sexual misconduct by priests and bishops to come forward.

The leader of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Bishop Michael F. Olson, wrote in a separate letter on July 28 that secret financial settlements between dioceses in New Jersey where where former cardinal McCarrick ministered and his alleged victims added to the “evil effects” of the abuse, and he suggested that the notion of defrocking former cardinal McCarrick “should be strongly deliberated.”

There have been many calls to investigate how the former cardinal was able to climb the ranks to lead one of the nation’s most important archdioceses. Bishop Olson added his voice to that chorus, saying an investigation to discover who knew what and when is necessary.

“Justice also requires that all of those in church leadership who knew of the former cardinal’s alleged crimes and sexual misconduct and did nothing be held accountable for their refusal to act thereby enabling others to be hurt,” the bishop wrote.

Kurt Martens, who teaches canon law at The Catholic University of America, told The Washington Post that because former cardinal McCarrick is retired, has resigned from the College of Cardinals and is already removed from public ministry, there are few other punishments left.

“Because you’re running out of options if you want to impose a further penalty,” he told The Post. “I would not be surprised if he gets dismissed from the clerical state.”

Not everyone welcomed the news that the archbishop resigned from the College of Cardinals.

Marie Collins, a former member of the Vatican’s sexual abuse commission, tweeted that the archbishop should have been removed rather than allowed to quit. “It would mean so much more if the announcement was that the Cardinal has been removed and not that he has chosen to resign,” Ms. Collins wrote on July 28.

Meanwhile, former cardinal McCarrick’s successor in Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, has not released an official statement following the resignation. But in an interview with WTOP radio on July 29, he called his predecessor’s removal from the College of Cardinals “a big step forward.”

“The pope is saying that we need to show that we are hearing these things, paying attention and acting,” he added.

A statement released by the Archdiocese of Washington on July 29 said that after reviewing its files, the archdiocese did not find any complaints against the former cardinal. It also repeated an assertion that Cardinal Wuerl had not been aware of abuse claims against former cardinal McCarrick prior to the Archdiocese of New York making public last month that an allegation of sexual misconduct against a minor had been deemed credible. According to the statement, Cardinal Wuerl also did not know about the settlements in New Jersey.

Regarding new allegations of abuse by individuals in Washington, the statement said: “These experiences shared by survivors are profoundly troubling and represent a breach of trust and wounding that no person should bear alone. Cardinal Wuerl again recently affirmed that those coming forward with new allegations show also a confidence in the church to take seriously these charges and act quickly in responding.”

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, who heads the Archdiocese of Newark, where former cardinal McCarrick served from 1986 until he was moved to Washington by Pope John Paul II in 2000, said in a July 28 statement that the news of his resignation “will impact the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Newark with particular force.”

“This latest news is a necessary step for the church to hold itself accountable for sexual abuse and harassment perpetrated by its ministers, no matter their rank,” Cardinal Tobin said. “I ask my brothers and sisters to pray for all who may have been harmed by the former cardinal, and to pray for him as well.”

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sheila gray
7 months 4 weeks ago

Thanks for this article. As a Clergy

As a Clergy Abuse survivor, I appreciate this article. But we Survivors must take healing into our own hands. I intend to announce soon in a Press Conference in the Los Angeles diocese the establishment of a permanent Healing Center for, by and about Survivors. It’s name is “Open The Gate”... in Ojai soon

J. Calpezzo
7 months 4 weeks ago

Marie Collins is the only credible voice here.
Why not interview Roger Mahony?

justinreany@gmail.com
7 months 4 weeks ago

Good one!

Crystal Watson
7 months 4 weeks ago

I think the only hope lies in the relaxation of statutes of limitation on these crimes, and prosecution by civil authorities. All the church seems to want to do is wring its hands.

Tim O'Leary
7 months 4 weeks ago

“Relaxation” is a funny euphemism. I see at least 3 problems with this. 1) if there is any change, it should be for all institutions, since we know the vast majority of sex abuse is outside the Church (the public school union wanted to be exempt in a recent push for this); 2) the older the charge, the less likely it can be proven, and less likely any charge will result in a conviction; 3) false accusations are themselves grave injustices and they sadly are not infrequent, since several priests in Philadelphia were found innocent after a 2-3 year process.

Crystal Watson
7 months 4 weeks ago

Yes, I think it should be for all institutions. Some older crimes may be harder to prove, but then they would likely not be prosecuted. This is as true for sex abuse as for murder, which has no statute of limitation.

Jim Englert
7 months 4 weeks ago

And he was made a Cardinal by a Saint.

Tim O'Leary
7 months 4 weeks ago

Jim - Judas was made an Apostle by Jesus, and Jesus knew what evil he was to do, and so it goes down through history. St. JP II did appear oblivious to the sins of several around him, but that is a failing of prudence, not holiness. In McCarrick’s case, I expect he didn’t get the full story (as Cardinals Wuerl and O’Malley seem not to). This is why we need a thorough investigation to know how decisions were made and if there were blockers along the way (the gay lobby or some other cabal).

Martin Meehan
7 months 3 weeks ago

I salute your desire for a thorough investigation. But I find your reference to the blocking of McCarrick's crimes due to the 'gay lobby or some other cabal'' is outrageous. A major reason for the blocking of McCarrick's crimes was due to his fund raising for the Vatican. He did that well. He also seduced seminarians well. You so often look to extend blame to others....like gays and teachers and teacher unions. Well, some teachers, and others professionals, do inappropriate acts against children. But more often the not, they are FIRED and sentenced to jail, not transferred to another school district. A grand jury in Pennsylvania has found credible accusations of molestation against 300 priests in 6 dioceses. 300. Are some of these 300 innocent? Surely, but not the vast majority. I assume you now focused on doing Google and other research to find reasons to excuse these headlines. The Church accepting responsibility for these crimes is essential. Your search for excuses and diffusion of blame harms the Church in the long run.

Michaelangelo Allocca
7 months 3 weeks ago

Fascinating how JP II was only "oblivious" to the sins of those who shared his doctrinal views and attitudes to church power structure. But yeah, it was just a prudence problem. I imagine you'll find some way to save his holiness by shifting the blame to a more convenient scapegoat like "the gay lobby."

Tim O'Leary
7 months 4 weeks ago

We need a thorough investigation to know how the decisions for making McCarrick bishop and cardinal were made and if there were information blockers and defenders along the way (the gay lobby or some other cabal).

Rhett Segall
7 months 4 weeks ago

Regarding the McCarrick scandal; First: the Church should be careful in the context of the sexual abuse crisis and abuse of power crisis not to give into a knee jerk reaction against the charisms of evangelical chastity and hierarchical ministry. They belong to the heart of Jesus' work.
Second: just as the clergy has been vitally interested in nurturing Christian marriage (some of my best insights on sexuality and marriage have come from the clergy), so too the laity should be eager to nurture mature vocations to the diocesan priesthood and religious life.
Third: the laity should be significantly involved in oversight of houses of formation for both seminarians and religious orders.
Fourth: just as there are now anonymous hot lines for the laity regarding sexual abuse, there should be something similar in houses of formation.
Finally, Timothy should be the watchword: "Do not accept an accusation against a presbyter unless it is supported by two or three witnesses. Reprimand publicly those who do sin, so that the rest also will be afraid." 1 Tim 5:19

sheila gray
7 months 4 weeks ago

“not to give into a knee jerk reaction against the charisms of evangelical chastity and hierarchical ministry” ... Sorry to tell you that it’s over. It does not compute anymore. You all
blew it, literally, most likely. “Me thinks thou doth protest too much.”

Tim O'Leary
7 months 4 weeks ago

Shiela - it cannot be over if you don’t want to condemn all humanity to hell. We need saving grace and holiness “nothing impure can enter heaven” Rev 21:27.

Michaelangelo Allocca
7 months 3 weeks ago

Fascinating how you are so quick to accuse some phantom "gay lobby," but jump to the defense of hierarchical power structure -- found nowhere in the New Testament, mind you -- as if to question it were to question Christ himself. Were I as judgmental as you are, I might wonder aloud about slander, homophobia, and sacrilege (idolatrously divinizing the notion of hierarchy).

Jeffrey More
7 months 4 weeks ago

How can Cardinal Wuerl claim that McCarrick's removal from the College of Cardinals is "a big step forward"? McCarrick removed himself from the College, allowing the Church to sit on its hands, as is its wont. And does Cardinal Wuerl really think that we"ll take any comfort from his puerile, mealy-mouthed observation that "The Pope is saying that we need to show that we are hearing these things, paying attention and acting"? The Pope isn't saying anything, and he hasn't done anything except accept resignations. Cardinal Wuerl's hollow statement is depressingly similar to the platitudes that issued forth from the American hierarchy at their press conference in April 2002 as they left the Vatican after meeting with Pope John Paul II regarding the American clergy sex abuse scandal. Indeed, many of those platitudes issued forth from the mouth of McCarrick, who was one of the spokespersons at that press conference.

Scott Slanda
7 months 3 weeks ago

Amen, we need words, not action. Laicize McCarrick and hand him over to the civil power for prosecution. I'd like to see bishops who abuse their power in this way die in prison.
As for those like Tobin who aided and abetted this behavior, defrock them and make them novices in a monastery someplace, to spend the rest of their lives in obedient penance under a strict and watchful abbot.

Michaelangelo Allocca
7 months 3 weeks ago

"... like Tobin"??? He was in Indiana until about two years ago, and hasn't had any connection with McCarrick, let alone opportunity to aid and abet McCarrick's crimes.

arthur mccaffrey
7 months 4 weeks ago

“I do not see how we can avoid what is really at the root of this crisis, sin and a retreat from holiness," Bishop Sharfeneberger said.....sin? not crime? and you can only retreat from holiness if you were holy to begin with...if you were rotten to begin with like McCarrick the only retreat is from a criminal life towards a better one. Instead of all the hand wringing, why don't all the American bishops & cardinals do the Chilean thing and offer their resignations to the Pope en masse. Nobody is irreplaceable.

Tim O'Leary
7 months 4 weeks ago

Sex abuse is indeed about sin, grave sin, which covers all true crimes as well. Some commentators here seem to be ready to abandon the Church because of these sins/crimes. But, that would be a terrible mistake, as it would cut them off from the grace that saves us from hell. Even as I am outraged by the particular sins evident here, I know the only path forward is the path of holiness - holy bishops, holy priests and holy laity.

sheila gray
7 months 4 weeks ago

Sir, for many, for most, if not all Survivors, Life became Hell on Earth as soon as the abuse started... and then the inevitable denials. And then SILENCE. And then the cover up at the highest levels. Survivors did not matter. We matter now. I have this weird thought that the survival of the Catholic Church depends on Survivors. Should we work to save it? Maybe. Maybe not.

Shelah Hockman
7 months 3 weeks ago

I think that is an interesting thought about the Church survival depending on survivors. I think it depends on those who have had to live through this clergy abuse scandal and still love the Church and not give up on Her.

Rhett Segall
7 months 3 weeks ago

Sheila and Shelah; Jesus founded the Church and promised that the "gates of hell shall not prevail against it". Sadly, the gates of hell are sometimes attack from within. This does not negate Jesus promise. The work of His Spirit then will be within the Church. I'm confident that the Survivors, joined to His cross, are spearheading that purification,

Vincent Gaglione
7 months 4 weeks ago

Pure, holy, saintly, etc., etc.,etc. – these words and similar spill out in the comments and are almost meaningless to the discussion. They are as much a diversion from truths as what the hierarchy has done throughout the life of the Church to avoid corporate embarrassments.

We need hierarchy and clergy to follow just civil laws where they exist, even at the expense of the reputation of the Church. Where such laws do not exist, we need them to create procedures to deal with moral violations in a manner that protects and is honest to our members.

As sinners we need to teach and recognize that very few of us are pure, holy, saintly etc. but that we strive, mostly weakly, to those ideals and that forgiveness and reconciliation are always available. Such is the case even for the most egregious of sinners, a very hard pill to swallow, but the essence of Christianity. Smug sanctimoniousness and outrage is no cure.

Michael Caudill
7 months 4 weeks ago

Perhaps the Catholic Church might look into The Salvation Army's current organizational structure which has been implemented after their own misconduct/abuse problems by their Officer (Ministerial/Pastoral); specifically, the Divisional Commander (DC), local law enforcement, Territorial Headquarters (THQ: equivalent of Cardinal's Office) oversight position of the "Territorial Secretary for Personnel*" (hereafter "TSP) serving the Territorial Commander ("TC": equivalent to "Cardinal"). The "International Secretary for Personnel" ("ISP") the International Headquarters Office directly answerable to the General, who is International Leader of The Salvation Army.

Each and every claim of misconduct is now handled by three or more people from not less than two levels of command which guarantees of a thorough investigation of every allegation, provides the checks and balances to safeguard against unwitting negligence--or worse--deliberately concealing the truth!
Again, and most important of all, every allegation of any kind of abuse by a TSA officer is now reported directly to local authorities! Should the local authorities determine that they cannot bring legal action against the accused, the Salvation Army will reconsider its termination of a terminated officer if the facts of their internal investigation and the law enforcement officials warrant it.
_____

* Salvation Amy "Personnel" being the Officers (Ministers/Pastors) of TSA.

Michael Caudill
7 months 4 weeks ago

Perhaps the Catholic Church might look into The Salvation Army's current organizational structure which has been implemented after their own misconduct/abuse problems by their Officer (Ministerial/Pastoral); specifically, the Divisional Commander (DC), local law enforcement, Territorial Headquarters (THQ: equivalent of Cardinal's Office) oversight position of the "Territorial Secretary for Personnel*" (hereafter "TSP) serving the Territorial Commander ("TC": equivalent to "Cardinal"). The "International Secretary for Personnel" ("ISP") the International Headquarters Office directly answerable to the General, who is International Leader of The Salvation Army.

Each and every claim of misconduct is now handled by three or more people from not less than two levels of command which guarantees of a thorough investigation of every allegation, provides the checks and balances to safeguard against unwitting negligence--or worse--deliberately concealing the truth!
Again, and most important of all, every allegation of any kind of abuse by a TSA officer is now reported directly to local authorities! Should the local authorities determine that they cannot bring legal action against the accused, the Salvation Army will reconsider its termination of a terminated officer if the facts of their internal investigation and the law enforcement officials warrant it.
_____

* Salvation Amy "Personnel" being the Officers (Ministers/Pastors) of TSA.

Danny Collins
7 months 3 weeks ago

What about Tobin, Farrell, and Wuerl? They knew about the beach house (i.g., Predator Factory), yet they did nothing. The laity need to end their ACA and USCCB donations until the bishops force the resignation of Cardinal McCarrick's enablers. It isn't enough that he is allowed to live out his dying days in perpetual retreat eating incredible food prepared by with his fine tastes in mind. He belongs in a jail cell eating porridge and hard tack. His enablers belong there, too.

john abrahams
7 months 3 weeks ago

Always remembering with shock Paul VI going public by stating in prophetic words: "The smoke of Satan has found its way inside the Church." While directing those words to what he discerned during his ministry, the words of the Bishop of Rome fall like the fires of Sodom &
Gomorrah throughout every age, decade, crevice of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Immaculate Spouse of the Lamb. Sort, Look, Listen to the present Pope decrying The Evil One as no myth from the Middle Ages.
Nor is it medieval hocus-pocus to keep and use daily Holy Water in every home----office too.

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