Saturday, February 16, 2019

Theodore McCarrick, Ex-Cleric

Over the last two decades, some 5,000 men worldwide have been dismissed from the clerical state following a credible allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor.

Only now has one of them once worn the red hat of a cardinal.

Anticipated for months, the Pope's decree ousting Theodore Edgar McCarrick, now a former archbishop and priest, from the ranks of the ordained was published by the Holy See just before 9.30 Rome time (3.30am US Eastern) this Saturday morning. With word of the decision conveyed to the 88 year-old yesterday, the act has immediate effect.

Eight months since a first report of abuse was substantiated against the onetime cardinal-archbishop of Washington, today's move caps the most precipitous fall of an American prelate in history – indeed, of a top-level cleric anywhere in modern times – and marks a new stage in the church's still-intensifying effort to address the scourge of abuse and punish its perpetrators.

Since 2001, when full-on laicization became a standard practice for priests found guilty of abusing a minor or or possessing child pornography, only three other bishops have been similarly removed worldwide, none of them from the US.

Here, the English text of the Vatican announcement:
On 11 January 2019, the Congresso of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the conclusion of a penal process, issued a decree finding Theodore Edgar McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., guilty of the following delicts while a cleric: solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power. The Congresso imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state. On 13 February 2019, the Ordinary Session (Feria IV) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith considered the recourse he presented against this decision. Having examined the arguments in the recourse, the Ordinary Session confirmed the decree of the Congresso. This decision was notified to Theodore McCarrick on 15 February 2019. The Holy Father has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law, rendering it a res iudicata (i.e., admitting of no further recourse).
While weeks of reports foreseeing McCarrick's laicization have taken the surprise out of the result, the seismic nature of it remains, all the more given the immense influence and profile the now-removed cleric masterfully wielded across the Catholic world and the nation's capital alike over a generation.

Even when McCarrick resigned under pressure from the College of Cardinals last July – becoming the first "ex-member" of the Pope's Senate in a century – the notion of removing the then-archbishop from the priesthood altogether remained a near-unthinkable outcome in most church circles. However, as public anger remained blistering over what became multiple abuse charges – coupled with ample revelations of McCarrick's history of harassment and molestation of seminarians and young priests – once word emerged in late December that an allegation of solicitation in the context of Confession had become part of the CDF investigation, the ultimate banishment was suddenly viewed as a fait accompli.

As the action against McCarrick stemmed from a man's report last year to the archdiocese of New York that the then-monsignor had fondled him as a 16 year-old in the early 1970s – followed quickly by the testimony of a second man that the future cardinal (a longtime friend of his family) had abused him for years, beginning at age 11 – what's now the standard canonical penalty in such cases has been executed here.

Nonetheless, today's announcement brings one major innovation: until now, a cleric's sexual misconduct with adults has not risen to the level of a CDF charge nor a tribunal process. Usually addressed as a discretionary matter, that acts with adults are listed among the graviora delicta (grave crimes) warranting McCarrick's dismissal – specifically "with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power" – represents a massive sea-change in the church's handling of allegations beyond those involving minors, one which could well have significant ramifications going forward, both in Rome and at the local level.

With his laicization now imposed, McCarrick – a particular favorite of Popes John Paul II and Francis alike – loses all the titles, responsibilities and privileges of a priest and hierarch, except for one emergency role: namely, the faculty to absolve a person in imminent danger of death. As for his descriptor going forward, he should be referred to as "the dismissed cleric Theodore McCarrick," with the ranks or offices he once held only used after his name to reflect that they no longer apply.

Given his dismissal, it remains to be seen whether the now-former cleric will keep his residence at the Capuchin friary in Kansas where Francis ordered McCarrick to live in prayer and penance pending the outcome of Rome's investigation; as a result of today's decree, the onetime cardinal is no longer bound by obedience to his now-former superior.

Today's move is merely the curtain-raiser for two of the most consequential moments of Francis' six-year pontificate: Thursday brings the opening of the four-day Vatican "summit" that'll convene the presidents of the world's bishops for the church's first-ever global meeting on clergy sex-abuse and its optimal response, while the eyes of Stateside Catholicism remain fixed on Washington, where the Pope's all-important appointment of the capital's next archbishop amid the twin scandals that engulfed McCarrick and his successor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, has been expected over these weeks.

On a timing note, it's long been understood among Whispers ops that the Vatican's final judgment on McCarrick would necessarily precede the Pope's pick for the helm of DC's 800,000-member church.

SVILUPPO: Before 7am ET, the following brief, unsigned statement was issued by the Washington Chancery:
The imposition on former Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of the penalty of his dismissal from the clerical state, thus prohibiting him any type of priestly ministry, underscores the gravity of his actions.

Our hope and prayer is that this decision serves to help the healing process for survivors of abuse, as well as those who have experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done. We also pray that the Church may be guided to move forward in her mission.
And shortly thereafter, the national response came from the USCCB President, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston – the US delegate to next week's Vatican talks:
The Holy See’s announcement regarding Theodore McCarrick is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated. No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church. For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgement will be one small step, among many, toward healing. For us bishops, it strengthens our resolve to hold ourselves accountable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to Pope Francis for the determined way he has led the Church’s response.

If you have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of someone within the Catholic Church, I urge you to contact local law enforcement and your local diocese or eparchy. Victims Assistance Coordinators are available to help. We are committed to healing and reconciliation.