On Sunday, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington released a statement about allegations of sexual abuse against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick “profoundly troubling.” The statement called on any as yet unidentified victims to step forward. This marked the first public statement by the archdiocese about its former archbishop, who has become the first cardinal to resign in the wake of sexual abuse allegations.

The archdiocese has claimed that it did not know of any claims of sexual abuse made against McCarrick, 88,during his tenure as Washington’s archbishop from 2001 to 2016. A statement from the archdiocese said that the allegations against McCarrick “represent a breach of trust and wounding that no person should bear alone.” The statement gave assurances that allegations will be handled with sensitivity and thoroughly investigated. 

McCarrick, who also once served in Philadelphia, resigned from the College of Cardinals on Saturday. Pope Francis has ordered him to remain in penitence and seclusion until a canonical trial has begun. A statement from the archdiocese read that McCarrick’s alleged actions, and encouraged other potential victims to step forward.

Last month, church officials determined that McCarrick had been credibly accused of sexually abusing a teenager almost 50 years ago when he was a priest in New York. Since then, additional reports of sexual abuse and harassment have surfaced, one of which involved a minor who was then 11 years old. Three adult victims include men who were priests or seminarians when the alleged abuse occurred. The Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark in New Jersey reached settlements nearly twenty years ago with two men who alleged that McCarrick sexually harassed them when they were adults.

“We continue to pray for the survivors of such abuse and understand how difficult it is to share such painful memories,” the Washington Archdiocese said in its written statement. “The archdiocese encourages all coming forward to share these experiences with any diocese in which they reside so that these grave issues can be reviewed promptly by Church authorities, and that we can offer assistance to begin the process for healing and peace.”

The Washington Archdiocese said reviews of its records in the wake of the case in New York revealed “no complaints of any kind” against McCarrick. Before June, the archdiocese claimed, it had no knowledge of confidential settlements reached by the dioceses in New Jersey

Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation on Saturday. According to the Washington Post, Cardinal Donald Wuerl -- who succeeded McCarrick as Archbishop of Washington -- said, “I think this was a big step forward in trying to act quickly, decisively, even though the whole procedure isn’t concluded yet.” Wuerl said, “The pope is saying that we need to show that we are hearing these things, paying attention and acting.”

McCarrick and Wuerl were among the bishops who drafted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to guide the church in response to sex abuse cases that had scandalized Catholics and non-Catholics across the country. While the wording of the charter exempts bishops, critics say, Wuerl claims that McCarrick’s resignation is proof that the charter is effective. Wuerl claims he was unaware of rumors associated with McCarrick and said he has never been approached with allegations of abuse by him. 

Effectively banned from public life as a priest, McCarrick is not permitted to engage in any public activity, public work, public events, or public appearances. The pope has called on McCarrick to lead a life of prayer and penance.

The first public allegations against McCarrick were revealed last month, and while they were deemed credible by the church, he denied anything inappropriate happened. More allegations, and word of some settlements that were made before McCarrick came to Washington, have been made public since then.

On July 20, the Washington archdiocese released a statement that said in response to an allegation against McCarrick, Church officials in Rome delegated Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York to investigate the allegation, engaging the review board of the Archdiocese of New York,” where the abuse allegedly occurred. “In the end the review board found the allegations credible and substantiated. Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, instructed McCarrick that “he is to refrain from any public ministry or activity until a definite decision is made.”

Cardinal McCarrick, while maintaining his innocence, has accepted the decision.

“While saddened and shocked, this archdiocese awaits the final outcome of the canonical process and in the meantime asks for prayers for all involved.

“At the same time, we renew our commitment to care for the victims who have suffered abuse, to prevent abuse before it occurs, and to identify and report child abuse once it has happened.”

Also on July 20, McCarrick released a statement:

“Some months ago, I was advised by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, that an allegation of sexual abuse of a teenager from almost fifty-years ago had been made against me. At that time I was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

“While shocked by the report, and while maintaining my innocence, I considered it essential that the charges be reported to the police, thoroughly investigated by an independent agency, and given to the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York. I fully cooperated in the process.

“My sadness was deepened when I was informed that the allegations had been determined credible and substantiated.

“In obedience I accept the decision of The Holy See, that I no longer exercise any public ministry.

“I realize this painful development will shock my many friends, family members, and people I have been honored to serve in my sixty-years as a priest.

“While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.”



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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