LONDON - Pope Francis pledged once again Wednesday to rid the Catholic Church of sexual abuse—one day after the Vatican released its much-anticipated report on the years of cover-up by high-rankling church members of the illegal and wrongful behavior by former Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Pope Francis renewed the commitment Wednesday of the Catholic Church to uproot the evil of sexual abuse and expressed solidarity with victims. His words were followed by a minute of silent prayer at the end of the weekly general audience from the library of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.
The pope’s words came one day after the Vatican published a report that he ordered in October 2018, saying he was “concerned by the confusion” among Catholics about what he called “the painful case of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.”
In the report, the Vatican admits its failures to take appropriate action following widespread claims of McCarrick’s sexual abuse of minors and adults over many years.
The 449-page report “on the Holy See’s institutional knowledge and decision-making process related to former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick from 1930 to 2017" is based on the interviews of more than 90 witnesses, including cardinals, bishops, American seminarians and priests.
The Vatican said, “no limit was placed on the examination of documents, the questioning of individuals or the expenditure of resources necessary to carry out the investigation.”
McCarrick was one of the most popular and powerful members of the Catholic Church in the United States. It was Pope John Paul II, now a saint, who appointed him archbishop of Washington in 2000, and then cardinal early the following year. He said he believed a letter written by McCarrick in which he denied any wrongdoing.
Under Pope Benedict’s watch, McCarrick resigned in 2006 as Archbishop of Washington upon reaching the customary age limit of 75 but continued to remain active. Benedict also did not act on the sexual misconduct allegations and opted against opening a canonical process while encouraging McCarrick to keep a low profile as he continued to be active in the Church.
It was Pope Francis who finally took action with an investigation and canonical trial after a former altar boy came forward in 2017 with a strong claim that McCarrick had molested him during preparation for Christmas Mass 35 years earlier. The outcome was the cardinal’s defrocking in 2019.
The once respected and almighty cardinal, now 90 years of age, has never been criminally charged. McCarrick now lives in isolation at an undisclosed location as a layman.