Cardinal Theodore McCarrick: Sexual Predator in a Red Hat

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick: Sexual Predator in a Red Hat July 24, 2018

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by the Archdiocese of Washington DC,


Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered and I will turn my hand against the little ones. Zechariah.

You will all fall away. For it is written, strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered. Jesus Christ

The evidence is piling up that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is a long-standing sexual predator. It appears that this was an open secret inside upper-level Church circles, but the boys in black kept mum and covered for him. 

Evidently, at least one priest who had been assaulted by McCarrick went to the Vatican on his own dime to try to stop the move to make this predator a cardinal. He was ignored, and McCarrick not only became one of the handful of priests who get to choose the next pope, Pope John Paul II put him in charge of the Church’s response to the child sexual abuse scandal here in America.

A lot of people are finding their faith in the Church on the block because of this. The McCarrick scandal runs higher than local bishops who abandon children to child molesters. It reaches all the way to the throne of Peter. It hints at a self-deifying and ruthless priesthood in the grip of a culture of indifference to its own sins, no matter who those sins harm. 

That’s a bitter pill for honest, devout Catholics to swallow. The people hardest hit by this are the honest ones who face reality and don’t try to fantasize their way out of it. The people I know who are expressing anguish over this are the faithful, devout Catholics who’ve built their lives around following the Church and who have the courage to face reality on reality’s terms. They are the remnant faithful in this time of political heresy, dissolution and devolution.

For the most part, Catholic writers are ignoring the McCarrick scandal. Striking as it does directly at the leadership of Pope John Paul II, it shakes the foundation on which a good many modern Catholic faithful have built their lives. It is too big, too meaningful, to wrap up in neat aphorisms and cotton-candy bromides. 

“Even Jesus had his Judas,” Mother Angelica famously reminded us when the clergy sex abuse scandal first broke so many years ago. But the McCarrick revelations take the whole thing far beyond Judas bishops who, acting on their own corrupt amorality, enable child molesting priests. If the things that are coming out prove true, Pope John Paul II put McCarrick in charge of dealing with the scandal long after McCarrick had been credibly accused by another priest. 

That makes the pope himself one of those Judas bishops. It changes even Jesus had his Judas into a question, and that question is, When it comes to questions of sexual assault, is the Church itself Judas?


This is the first of several columns I’m going to write about this. Tomorrow I’ll write a bit about what happened to a friend of mine who was asked to be the head of McCarrick’s panel on sexual abuse of children by priests. Then, I’ll write about the Church’s on-going refusal to take sexual assault seriously, right up to this day. Finally, I’ll write about living out our faith in today’s world. 

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

46 responses to “Cardinal Theodore McCarrick: Sexual Predator in a Red Hat”

  1. I as well as my younger brother are survivors of clergy abuse by a priest of the Archdiocese, Father Kenneth L Martin, in 1983 I summed up the courage to tell Bishop Pechillo what this man had done to me, and I suspected he may be doing the same to my younger brother. He was not very kind to me and was quite irritated, chastising me for repeatedly calling him father instead of His Excellency. He sent me off to tell another priest, Father Frank McNulty who he told me was a psychologist/psychotherapist, he was not. I was simply told to stay away from him and he would stay away from me, of course that didn’t happen. He was left in my parish for several years, that is, until he was then promoted by Archbishop McCarrick to serve as his personal secretary, I was stunned. After he served in that capacity for several years he was then made pastor of a parish in the Oranges.

    A few years later, in 1997 I eventually met with then Archbishop McCarrick directly, regarding my abuse, he had said he never met with an abuse victim before and I was helping him understand the suffering such abuse of a child causes. (I guess he forgot all about James already) he made several promises, which were never kept. I asked that I be able to speak to seminarians and priests of the Archdiocese regarding my abuse, he said that would be arranged and the bishop would reach out to me. I asked that Fr Ken Martin be kept from children, he said he would. He also told me the church would never abandon my brother or I. After that meeting I never heard from him, or any other clergy from the archdiocese again. The priest was sent away for a few months and eventually quietly returned to ministry as chaplain at St. James Hospital in Newark. Keep in mind he was never reported to law enforcement as required by NJ state law, not until after the statute of limitations had run out. Some time after 2002 when the Boston scandal erupted onto the national scene, Archbishop John Myers allowed him to retire, still a priest but with restrictions. I only know that from a news report just a few years ago.

    So what has changed? Here is what our Bishops said in Dallas in 2002:

    Then Archbishop McCarrick made the following statement after listening to victims testimony during the Bishops National Conference in Dallas where they created the “Dallas Charter”. Cardinal McCarrick said “”I think it touched us all deeply to see how so many people had suffered because of a few sick and very mixed up priests, criminal priests,” McCarrick said. “In the last couple of hours, I hope I’ve grown. I hope I will be wiser and more courageous when the committee presents its report.”

    Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said “Dallas has to be a first step, a significant first step in restoring the credibility of the bishops,” he said. “Our people have to be able to say, ‘They get it.'”

    Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles said he has concluded from conversations with fellow bishops that the final policy approved Friday will most likely force out all abusers, including those with only one offense.
    “We’ve got to come out of here with very strong zero tolerance — past, present and future,” Mahony said.

    Now a statement from one of the victims who was also at Dallas:

    Mark Serrano, of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, held up a picture of himself at age 12 and told of how he was raped by a priest. He then urged the bishops to adopt a national abuse policy under which CHURCH LEADERS — not just abusive priests — would “be fired or defrocked” for failing to protect young people. Bishops generally haven’t supported that idea. he said, “Listening comes easy,” “Talk comes cheap. Moral action is priceless.”

    Mark Serrano was right all along! Now let’s see what “moral action” our church leaders are willing to take????

    Mark Crawford

  2. Although it is certainly not the “cure all” fix, celibacy should be an option, very few clergy are truly celibate. It appears there is a large number of clergy who are gay, I do not believe the majority of these clerics who may be in a relationship with another adult are also abusing young boys and/or girls. That said, clearly too many clergy, those that are psychosexually immature, are perpetrating such abuses. I also believe those abuses occur in much greater numbers than that which occurs in general society because too many of our clerics have serious issues. Remember these abusers are driven by a need to have power over another, they are masters of manipulation and control, it doesn’t matter if they are conservative or liberal, gay or heterosexual, pre-Vatican II or post Vatican II. What they need to be is healthy, balanced, mature adults that are committed to serving the faithful, not be served.

    For those who tell us this is simply a gay issue; how is it that we find such abuse prevalent in the orthodox Jewish community or other Christian denominations among married clerics?
    Ultimately if we want true reform it will e up to the people in the pews and the rest of society to tell our Church officials “no more secrets, no more lies, no more cover-ups”. We will always encounter those that abuse their power, that power can only be taken away when their abuses are EXPOSED not hidden. It is YOU who are “Church”, everyone of us, and it is up to us to ensure our “Church” reveals the whole truth, becomes healthy once again and heals this festering wound upon our church. Society must demand it!
    Now this is all compounded and does the greatest harm when other clerics knowingly cover for and or protect known abusers within church ranks. Clearly the McCarrick abuses are such an example.

    No we cannot trust our church leaders (bishops and cardinals) to police themselves, and any talk of allowing married clergy, if ever adopted will not happen anytime soon, even Pope Francis recently affirmed this. I also believe we need much greater involvement from layperson or secular society in general, it would be harder for such secrets to remain hidden. Lastly, if the church is even to attempt to reign in errant church officials, the Church needs an Internal Affairs Division to investigate Bishops and Cardinals. This team would report only to the Pope, whose mission would be to identify and have removed those Church officials who allow, conceal or acquiesce to known clergy who abuse their authority and or trust with EVERY member of the faithful, whether that’s with a child, teenager or adult! Lastly society must put in place rules that will instill accountability and consequences for those who have failed to protect or directly do harm to our children or vulnerable adults, most necessary if we want to see real reform NOW!

  3. Personally, I don’t understand how you or other survivors of the abuse by priests and other church leaders, can remain followers of the Catholic faith. I’m so sorry you and your brother and others had to go through what you went through and be totally disregarded when you had the courage to speak up. I had Catholic friends who said if they complained about a priest, their parents usually felt that it wasn’t true—priests were held in high regard then. (many, many years ago). I’m not a follower of any particular faith—-liberal in my beliefs—but if I did follow a faith, I would be sure my children were never alone with a church leader—and that isn’t how it should be.

  4. There was a comment here a little while ago from one of McCarrick’s victims. Where did it go?

  5. I don’t know. I can’t find it in the feed. Maybe the person who wrote it took it down.

  6. I agree, it’s really up to the people (the real Church) to demand change. Most of these priests use the confessional to clear their conscience of their crimes. They keep going to confession and keep on re-offending. They know their crime is safe with the “seal” of the confession.

    A possible solution to this might be a slight change in the way confessions are handled and still maintain the seal of the confessional. The pope could instruct priest to tell the penitent that lying in the confessional is an unforgivable sin and for sins involving child abuse or murder (or any crime that destroyed people’s lives) a special requirement has to be satisfied before the person can continue with the confession. The requirement is for the person to go to his victim or his family, if the victim committed suicide, and ask for forgiveness in the presence of the victims family or guardian AND local police. The local police must be involved all the time. A certificate or letter from the local police will be issued to the offender. The offender can show this certificate or letter to the priest and continue with the confession.

    This way the priest can keep the seal intact. It’s up to the offender to make things right. The priest can also tell the offender that a forged certificate nullifies all absolution.

    Didn’t Jesus say give to Caesar what is due to Caesar and to God what is due to God.

    If the offender ends up getting the death penalty for the crime he committed then that is what he deserve in this world.

  7. I’m often asked that question and my reply is simple. I can’t abandon my faith because I’m also a sinner. When all is said and done and I find myself standing in front of my creator I can hope that he will not abandon me.

    Church leaders are humans too. There were evil popes and there are evil priests just like any human. You are right to think that you should not leave your children with a church leader or anyone you don’t trust. There is no profession on this earth that makes anyone instantly trustworthy.

    Please don’t think that God did nothing while all this was happening. In the early 60’s God sent the Blessed Mother to appear to four young schoolgirls in the hills of Garabandal in Northern Spain. One of Her message was “Cardinals, bishops and priests are on the road to perdition and are taking many souls with them”. Church leaders were worried this message would damage the brand. I can only assume God cared more about the people than the brand

  8. No, the site moderator must have removed it…I saw it was noted as “possible spam” I replied it was not, but I see the post has been removed. But I can still see it, it shows that it is still awaiting approval by “Public Catholic” It was the details of my abuse by my parish priest who was later promoted by then Archbishop McCarrick. I named names in that post, so I imagine that’s why it was removed. Secrecy and silence continues. In any event if one goes to Bishop Accountability website, you can see what I had posted would be verified.

    Mark Crawford

  9. If we really want change or reform, the cries for change and justice must come from within. The “faith” is good, belief that these men can fix this problem is not. They have had countless opportunities and have and continue to fail miserably. This is not by accident it is by choice. These are well educated men, and to claim they didn’t know better is completely unacceptable. Society must step in and demand real reforms, consequences and accountability, we must fix the laws in each state to ensure that happens so our children will be protected.

  10. Yes our church officials and clergy who have known about clergy who abused children but remained silent, will have to answer one day. I wonder if the actual believe in a God. and yes I agree, sexual abuse of children in prevalent in all parts of society, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be the victim of unwanted sexual contact by the age of 18. Those numbers are staggering. Chances are you know several people who were victimized when they were young, they just never told you. That said, when an institution protects the predator and allows that individual to do more harm to the young, that too is a crime that cries out for justice. We must be vigilant whenever our children are in anyone else’s care, at school, scouting, sports and yes even our churches.

  11. Thank you for responding. It is obvious you’re a true believer. I taught in a RCC school for 10 years, in kindergarten. Totally enjoyed my experience with those I taught with, great people and kids too! We had strict rules about never being alone with a student, and if we were—doors were always open. No child was alone with an adult—this was in the 1990’s and into the 2000’s. These rules were there before the revelations about the priests were made public. Only one Sister taught, the rest of us were lay teachers and I was 1 of 2 that wasn’t Catholic. It is a shame when those who are supposed to be representatives of a faith can’t be trusted. Best to you.

  12. Some historical perspective, please. Saint John Paul II’s illness and debilitating physical condition were a long twilight in his final years in the Chair of Peter. I personally do not think he would have tolerated such unspeakable evil.. I have also read that, holy as he was, he could not be brought to believe that any of Christ’s priests could actually engage in such things. Of course, Maciel is the counterpoint to that, but the Holy Father was old and ill and possibly a little naive.

  13. That’s a legitimate factor when talking about the appointment of Cardinal McCarrick to head the sex abuse effort. However, the effort made by victims to stop Pope John Paul II from naming Archbishop McCarrick a Cardinal in the first place happened earlier, when the pope was not so frail. I’ve read that some people are trying to claim that the pope wasn’t informed that this delegation of victims had come to the Vatican on their own to inform the pope of Archbishop McCarrick’s sexual predation, but, so far as I’ve read, those claims are not certainties just hopeful thinking. Did Pope John Paul II know that a group of victims, including priests, had come to the Vatican, saying this man is a sexual predator, do not make him a cardinal? I don’t know. As you say, there is also Maciel, which looks really bad. All I know is that this thing with Cardinal McCarrick is setting off a real crises of faith about the Church for several faithful Catholic friends of mine. They are really suffering, and the fact that Pope John Paul II, who they love, is why. As for me, I think the important thing is always the truth. The truth is what matters.

  14. I am the site moderator, and I did not remove it. I approved it to be published.I have approved every single one of your comments that I’ve seen. Now, I cannot find it anywhere in the feed. I have no idea why. If you will re-enter it, I’ll be happy to approve it again. No problem with that.

  15. I look forward to your series on this. As far as I can remember this is the first time an actual bishop or higher has been accused, at least in the US. That alone is most disturbing. But then think of all the sins McCarrick committed: fornications, corruption of the young, corruption of priests, homosexual acts, lies, undermining church morality and rules, and so on. This is a disgrace of the highest magnitude. That a Cardinal of the church would do this is stunning. It doesn’t undermine my faith but it sure makes me embarrassed for the church I love.

  16. I disagree. Celibacy has nothing to do with it. Are you saying married men don’t have affairs, even homosexual affairs? Of course they do. Or that homosexuals will no longer join the priesthood? Of course they will.

  17. I am part of a small informal group of law people in the Archdiocese of Washington who have been shocked and deeply hurt by the recent revelations of our former Archbishop’s behavior. We are trying to learn what we can do to help heal the Church. As a first step,we are offering Masses for healing for the victims of Theodore McCarrick. Would you like for us to request a Mass for you by name?

  18. I agree….society needs to step in. There is no excuse for their actions—–the “didn’t know better” doesn’t cut it at all!

  19. This is really strange. I posted a reply to this comment a couple of hours ago, and now I can’t find it either. What I said was that I am the site moderator and I approved your comment. Then, it vanished, and it is still gone. I can’t find it anywhere. Ditto for my reply to what you said above. If you will post it again, I’ll approve it again.

  20. I FINALLY found it! It shows that it’s approved on my side, and says that it’s “awaiting approval” on your side. I had to fish it out of spam to get it this far. I don’t know how to “approve it again, so I’m writing this reply in hopes that this will trigger something. Here it goes ….

  21. Folks, I’m having all sorts of Disqus problems with this column. My own comments aren’t being published, and several of yours have gotten lost, even after I approved them. I apologize. I am NOT censoring your comments. Not one bit.

  22. Are you calling Jesus a liar, Manny? Or are you one of those Roman Catholics who actually doesn’t read the Scriptures? I await your reply.

  23. Manny, please don’t answer this. Ok Mr Ringo, there is no reason to get personal. By all means, if you have a point of disagreement, state it. But don’t insult Manny or whatever you think are his beliefs. That’s not stating your position, it’s just attacking another person. We don’t do that on this blog.

  24. Hey,hamiltonr…what happened to the interaction between myself and Manny? Here’s the quote by Our Saviour: “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the one to come “—Mark 10:32. So…either Jesus spoke truth , or Manny did, when he claimed that there was no sin that couldn’t be forgiven. Speaking for myself, I’ll go with Jesus. I await your reply. PEACE

  25. I disagreed with Manny’s unBiblical position, hamitonr; I don’t know Manny.(By the way, the Jesus quote I sent you is in Matthew, not Mark—sorry.) So…again, it’s Jesus or Manny, but not both.

  26. I have no problems with you stating your interpretation of this Scripture. But I don’t think there’s anything infallible about your interpretation. On the other hand, using this kind of black and white, my interpretation is what Jesus meant and anyone who disagrees with me is … whatever it is you’re implying Manny is, is not the way to go.

    I repeat: Discussion is fine. Insults are not.

  27. This is a false dichotomy. I’m pretty sure Manny knows the Bible every bit as well as you do, and that he loves Jesus as much as anyone here. There is nothing wrong with debating the interpretation of Scripture. Go for it, if that’s what you want to do. Just treat other people with respect as you do it.

  28. I recently watched the documentary “The Keepers”. I was livid knowing the police not only looked away but “lost” evidence and may have been part of the abuse. The hierachy of the Baltimore diocese lied and also offered to pay others not to talk. Now the case of McCarrick, almost the same chosen blindness by the Church. I, as a 70 yr old woman want to do something but how do you stand up to the Catholic Church? How does one woman demand change from such a powerful institution? I can no longer stand by. It needs to end. Jesus have mercy on all those who were abused and those who continue to be abused by the clergy.

  29. Schoooter, I deleted the link you included. I don’t allow links in these comboxes because I don’t have time to vet them. Just say what you mean, but remember: I don’t allow attacking people here. That includes Father Martin.

  30. I forgot to say: I don’t know what happened to your earlier post. I haven’t seen it. I don’t know why this keeps happening.

  31. I tell you what, hamiltonr:Send me YOUR interpretation of Jesus’ plainly worded statement, and we’ll take it from there. Tell me what YOU think Jesus meant, and we’ll begin a discussion…Fair enough? Go!! I don’t recall making any attempt to interpret what the Savior plainly stated; I wasn’t aware interpretation was required. But I’m more than willing to be corrected if I’m in error here.Oh, and point out my supposed insult, and I will gladly apologize. So…I await your reply.

  32. My dear friend, I cannot begin to imagine the horrors you and your brother went through. I hope you are both recovering and continue to recover from that painful tragedy. My hope and prayers are with you and your family.

    I wondered that too if priests who abuse children believe in God. It’s one thing to have doubts about your faith, it’s normal, but to abuse a helpless person and continue abusing is just pure evil. For leaders to protect abusers while attacking victims so they would go away is beyond evil. They’ve completely lost the plot, they’re no different from cults.

  33. Yeah, that’s just about what I thought. No doubt your next step will be to block me, it being too much trouble to admit that you were in error. No matter God bless, and have a nice day.

  34. For all those who offered prayers and support, Thank You! Tragically my younger brother has been damaged, beyond hope. I will always be his voice. I don’t like at all talking about my abuse history or my private life, but I also know…no change will come if I or any other victim remains silent. Secrecy and silence protects the predator and allows the abuse to thrive. Finding ones voice sheds great light on things now hidden in darkness. I cry out not to drive anyone from their faith but I speak in the hope that our church leaders abandon their belief that they have a duty to protect an institution, instead of the very people who ARE “the Church”. It’s time for a “C” change.

  35. He’s referring to Matt 12:31-32 where Jesus says that blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is unpardonable. I had forgotten about that. I’m not going to claim I understand the theology behind it, but I do believe all sins are forgivable if truly repentant. Some real theologian can either correct me or substantiate me. Whichever.

  36. Yes, by the letter of Matthew 12:31-32 there is one unforgivable sin. I had forgotten about that. But you should consult real theologians to get the fullness of what that means. I don’t think it means what you think, but I am no theologian, so I’ll just leave it at that.

  37. You are absolutely right and I commend you for your courage and efforts. If only the people who were abused before you spoke and reported the crime then you and your brother might have been spared that horrific ordeal. But then again maybe they did but and no one believed them because they were kids or the people they spoke to were stupid enough to think that priests or church leaders are incapable of sinning. Whatever it was the important thing is you’re doing the right thing. You’re preventing other vulnerable people from being victims. Stay strong in the love of Christ my friend.