There is a very pronounced feeling on the street that Jim McCarthy didn't get the kind of kid-glove treatment from Egan we're seeing in these days.
Let me bring you up to speed: McCarthy was Cardinal O'Connor's beloved son, the devoted secretary of 14 years who saw the world at Uncle Jack's side. It was easy to tell where things were going when the Good Cardinal sent Jim to pastor a luxe Westchester parish and -- finally, finally -- had him made an auxiliary bishop in 1999 after repeated attempts. It was JP's farewell present to O'Connor, and it made the old man a very happy camper.
The sticking point which held the appointment back was always rumors of liaisons with various women. At a meeting of the Administrative Board of the USCCB in June, 2002 -- a week before the Dallas meeting -- Bishop McCarthy recused himself on an urgent phone call. He never returned.
A woman had reported a long-term, consensual relationship with McCarthy to the archdiocese. He quickly admitted several affairs, and Egan promptly gave him the boot, after which he disappeared from public life.
To be fair, it was a stretch of zero-tolerance statutes intended to exile child molestors, not practitioners of this illicit -- but not illegal -- manner of conduct. And the whispers immediately began, and now have returned, that Egan had his own motives in sidelining the living symbol of the O'Connor legacy with which he had clashed.
But the most intriguing thing of all is that, though promptly submitted, Jim McCarthy's resignation as auxiliary bishop of New York was never accepted by the Holy See.
Neuhaus was livid in the pages of the Westchester Journal-News:
Many priests and other supporters of McCarthy have said that in telling McCarthy not to act as a priest, Egan took the same disciplinary approach that he has taken with priests accused of molesting minors.
"This was an example of panicking and treating a priest, a bishop, like he was radioactive," said the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, a New York priest and editor of the conservative religion journal First Things who calls McCarthy a friend. "If this is not a church of forgiveness, of second chances, then what are we? We've lost a very good bishop, and I hope we don't lose a very good priest."
That should calm the fears of those who may view this as an unorthodox situation. Then again, Neuhaus is no Egan-phile, either.
As for the Cardinal, he got so whipped up McCarthy had cast the blame on him in the chattering circles that he saw fit to address the situation, albeit obliquely, in one of a 2002 CNY column:
Well the Holy See did handle it, and Canon 401.2 was never invoked. Intriguing, hmm?
When a priest is accused of sexual misconduct with other than a minor, the matter is handled by the archbishop and his counselors. When, however, a bishop is accused of sexual misconduct with other than a minor, the matter is handled exclusively by the Holy See. A representative of the Vatican interviews the bishop in question and informs him of whatever directives have been decided upon by the Holy Father.
In the case of an auxiliary bishop, his "Ordinary," such as the Archbishop of New York, is merely informed of the Holy Father's actions and directives. The Ordinary's counsel is not sought, and he does not participate in any of the discussions between the auxiliary bishop and the representative of the Vatican. When an auxiliary bishop attempts to make it seem that the Ordinary is responsible for the decisions of the Holy See, the Ordinary is able to do nothing more than announce the truth and trust the faithful will not be misled.
However dire the consequences, you've gotta love the backroom fighting that goes on in this business. But if an ethic's going to be imposed, goes the word circulating these days, shouldn't it be consistent and not used to punish an ordinary's enemies, nor be ignored in the case of his friends?
I'm really eager to know.