Cardinal faces explosive new abuse claim

What happened?

A man accused Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of abusing him for nearly 20 years from the age of 11. The man, identified as James, said the cardinal had been a close family friend known as “Uncle Teddy”. McCarrick was removed from public ministry after an allegation he groped a 16-year-old was found to be credible. James told the New York Times that, when he heard the news, he knelt down and “thanked God that I am not alone and it is going to be OK.”

What commentators are saying

“Put simply, the report is a nuclear bomb,” wrote Rocco Palmo at his blog Whispers in the Loggia. He called it the “apparent epitaph of one of American Catholicism’s towering figures of the late 20th and early 21st centuries”.

He drew attention to a statement from Cardinal Joseph Tobin that the US bishops’ conference would “discuss this tragedy” at their plenary meeting to ensure “high standards of respect by bishops, priests and deacons for all adults”. The probable result, said Palmo, would be the creation of a new entity to draft a new charter. Fr James Martin, writing at America, asked how the allegations were hushed up for so long. He noted that one priest, Fr Boniface Ramsey OP, told the nuncio about rumours of seminarians being molested. Fr Ramsey was asked to send a letter to the Vatican but never received a reply. Why? “As we saw in the clergy child abuse crisis, the tragic tendency was for Church leaders to trust the person they knew. Bishop McCarrick may have been better known to the nuncio than was Fr Ramsey,” Fr Martin wrote.

Matthew Walther, writing at The Week, said the “brain-wormed clericalism that made the sexual assault of James possible must disappear – forever”. He urged Catholics to stop giving to bishops’ annual appeals and to demand transparency in weekly bulletins about abuse cases and settlements. Walther wrote that although “I believe that the Church was founded by the apostle St Peter at the behest of Christ Himself, I also believe that it was for many years and will for many more still remain a cesspool.”

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection