Bishops, cardinals and popes repeatedly dismissed or downplayed sexual molestation accusations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Vatican said in a 400-page report released Tuesday.
Released two years after Pope Francis launched an internal investigation, the report said the Vatican knew of McCarrick’s behavior since at least 1999, but he continued to rise through the ranks. Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005, appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington, despite official inquiries into McCarrick’s actions.
Other church officials were blamed for withholding information or ignoring McCarrick’s behavior. The report said that Pope Francis continued the inaction of his predecessors until a former altar boy spoke up about his experience with McCarrick.
Francis reportedly became more active in the McCarrick case in 2017 after the former altar boy claimed he had been molested in 1971 and 1972 in New York. It was the first solid allegation against McCarrick involving a minor and eventually led to his defrocking last year after being found guilty of molesting adults and children for decades. McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in 2018.
“Pope Francis had heard only that there had been allegations and rumors related to immoral conduct with adults occurring prior to McCarrick’s appointment to Washington,” the report said. “Believing that the allegations had already been reviewed and rejected by Pope John Paul II, and well aware that McCarrick was active during the papacy of Benedict XVI, Pope Francis did not see the need to alter the approach that had been adopted.”
The McCarrick scandal has been particularly stinging in the United States, where McCarrick, 90, was archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006.
Another victim, James Grein, who said McCarrick abused him for two decades beginning when he was 11, told The Associated Press he hoped the investigation might lead to closure for some victims and reform of the church.
“There are so many people suffering out there because of one man,” Grein said. “And he thinks that he’s more important than the rest of us. He’s destroyed me, and he’s destroyed thousands of other lives. … It’s time that the Catholic Church comes clean with all of its destruction.”
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