Pope accepts Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation

What happened?

Pope Francis accepted the resignation from the College of Cardinals of Theodore McCarrick after two allegations that he sexually abused children. The former Archbishop of Washington has been ordered to live “a life of prayer and penance” until the outcome of a canonical trial. McCarrick, who is 88, had renounced public ministry in June after the Archdiocese of New York concluded that an allegation that he abused a teenager decades ago was credible.

What commentators are saying

The Vatican “made history” with its announcement of McCarrick’s resignation, said John Allen at Crux. “It’s the first time an American cardinal has ever renounced his red hat, and it’s the first time anywhere in the world [that a cardinal] has exited the College altogether facing accusations of sexual abuse,” he wrote. It was, he said, the “most tangible confirmation to date” of Pope Francis’s zero tolerance policy towards abusers.

Rocco Palmo, writing at his blog Whispers in the Loggia, recalled two cardinals who kept their titles amid allegations of sexual misconduct. One was Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who renounced “the rights and privileges” of the cardinalate, but not his title, over claims relating to adults. The other was Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer, who, after multiple allegations of child abuse in the 1990s, “quickly retired as archbishop of Vienna and died in seclusion a decade later with the scarlet intact”.

Ross Douthat at the New York Times called for the Church to hire a “special prosecutor” to investigate “who knew what and when”. He wrote: “Two decades after McCarrick should have been removed from his offices, defrocked and handed over to the civil authorities, he was instead wielding remarkable influence in the Church.” Many “important figures” in Rome and the US must have known about the allegations. “Someone, or indeed many someones, needs to be held accountable for this disaster.” Only through a “public and expansive accounting of the facts”, Douthat wrote, can the Church emerge with its moral authority intact.

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