The Bad Beginning
So. The McCarrick report.
I’m hitting pause on my current series so I can get this out. I read the report last week. Despite its length, it only took a couple of days. I started this series in a Google doc while reading it. I was anticipating I’d compose three or four posts’ worth of material in response; in fact, my doc ran to over thirty pages. Therefore, I want to make a few remarks to introduce this series.
First of all, I’m offering a link to the original document (naturally I want my readers to be able to draw their own conclusions), but I recommend caution in reading it. It isn’t fun. I did alright, despite being a survivor of abuse myself; after reading the hideous Pennsylvania grand jury report in 2018 and Dr Leon Podles’ Sacrilege last year, this was almost tame. But it’s still detailing the career of an abuser who held one of the highest offices in the Catholic Church, and who has seen little in the way of consequences. This is going to be a very content-warning-y series of posts. If your faith or your mental health are not in a great place right now, I’d urge you to postpone reading this series, let alone the original report.
Second, I’m not a trained psychologist or a canon lawyer or anything like that. I’m offering my reflections as a layman, nothing more—I may easily get things wrong or draw flawed conclusions. Hopefully I’m open to just correction.
Lastly, although it’s only been out for a week, the report itself is already seeing some criticism. Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons (see below) has complained that the author of the report omitted or distorted certain contributions that he, Dr. Fitzgibbons, made. It’s entirely possible that this report doesn’t give a fair and complete picture of the situation. I’ve accordingly tried to stick more to actual evidence cited in the report (letters, memoranda, etc.) than to its narrative as such.
Here’s rough outline of the subjects I plan to cover:
- The victims and their families
- Pope John Paul II
- Pope Benedict XVI
- Pope Francis
- Archbishop Viganò
- The USCCB
- What now?
Most of the victims are anonymous in the report, to protect their privacy. I’ve listed several of the most significant public players here. Originally I gave simple biographical details as each person emerged in the narrative, but I decided it’d be better to save space by giving them here in a lump. (People marked † are now deceased. Titles are current for the living, held-at-death for the dead.)
Pope Francis. Born Jorge Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina; 1936- . Ordained to the priesthood in 1969, consecrated bishop in 1992. Bishop of Buenos Aires, 1998-2013. Created cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. Elected Pope in 2013.
Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons. Psychiatrist, with a specialty in treating seminarians and clergy. (I had a surprising amount of difficulty in tracking down basic facts of his CV. I worked out from what I did find that he was born in or around 1943, and began practicing—at what exact level, I don’t know—in or around 1969.)
†Bishop Edward Hughes. Born in Lansdowne, PA; 1920-2012. Ordained to the priesthood in 1947, consecrated bishop in 1976. Bishop of Metuchen, NJ, 1986-1995. Retired in 1995.
Theodore McCarrick. Born in New York City, NY; 1930- . Ordained to the priesthood in 1958, consecrated bishop in 1977. First Bishop of Metuchen, 1981-1986; Archbishop of Newark, 1986-2000; Archbishop of Washington, 2000-2006. Created cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. Retired in 2006. Expelled from the College of Cardinals in 2018; laicized (i.e., defrocked) in 2019.
†Bishop James McHugh. Born in Orange, NJ; 1932-2000. Ordained to the priesthood in 1957, consecrated bishop in 1987. Bishop of Camden, NJ, 1989-1999; Bishop of Rockville-Center, KY, 2000. Died in office.
†Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo Higuera. Born in Bogotá, Colombia; 1930-2006. Ordained to the priesthood in 1953, consecrated bishop in 1974. Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, 1998-2005. Retired in 2005.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet. Born in La Motte, Québec, Canada; 1944- . Ordained to the priesthood in 1968, consecrated bishop in 2001. Created cardinal in 2003 by Pope John Paul II. Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, 2010- .
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Born Joseph Ratzinger in Marktl, Bavaria, Germany; 1927- . Ordained to the priesthood in 1951, consecrated bishop in 1977. Archbishop of Munich and Freising, 1977-1981. Created cardinal in 1977 by Pope Paul VI. Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1981-2005. Elected Pope in 2005; abdicated in 2013.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. Born in Borno, Lombardy, Italy; 1934- . Ordained to the priesthood in 1957, consecrated bishop in 1987. Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, 2000-2010. Created cardinal in 2oo1 by Pope John Paul II.
†A. W. Richard Sipe. Born in Robbinsdale, MN; 1932-2018. Benedictine monk, 1952-1970. Ordained a priest in 1959. Released from monastic vows and laicized at his own request in 1970; married that same year. Psychotherapist with a specialty in treating priests.
†Bishop John Mortimer Smith. Born in Orange, NJ; 1935-2019. Ordained to the priesthood in 1961, consecrated bishop 1987. Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahasse, FL, 1991-1997; Bishop of Trenton, NJ, 1997-2010. Retired in 2010.
Archbishop Carlo Viganò. Born in Varese, Lombardy, Italy; 1941- . Ordained to the priesthood in 1968, consecrated bishop in 1992. Secretary General of the Vatican City Governorate, 2009-2011; Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, 2011-2016. Retired in 2016.
†Pope John Paul II. Born Karol Wojtyła in Wadowice, Poland; 1920-2005. Ordained to the priesthood in 1946, consecrated bishop in 1958. Archbishop of Kraków, 1964-1978. Created cardinal in 1967 by Pope Paul VI. Elected Pope in 1978. Died in office.
May God be merciful to all the victims and to the whole Church, and may the dead who saw no earthly justice rest in peace. I pray I don’t hurt anyone or make anything worse with what I write about this. Here goes.
Further posts in this series: