Catholic Church abuse: Vatican defends handling of McCarrick case

A Vatican report has found that two recent popes and Church officials ignored allegations about an American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, later found guilty of sex abuse.

McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington DC, was expelled from the priesthood after the Vatican concluded its investigation last year.

It has now issued a report into how he was able to rise through the ranks, despite allegations going back decades.

It argues that credible evidence only surfaced in 2017.

The current Pope, Francis, then ordered the investigation and last year McCarrick, now 90, was found to have sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s.

His abuses may have taken place too long ago for criminal charges to be filed because of the U.S. statute of limitations.

The 450-page report includes testimonies from 90 witnesses, and dozens of letters and transcripts from Vatican and U.S. Church archives.

McCarrick served as archbishop of Washington DC from 2001 to 2006.

The report finds that the late Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005, was told of his abuses but chose to believe American bishops who instead concealed the information and McCarrick himself, who denied it all.

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It also finds that Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in 2013, probably rejected the idea of an investigation because there were “no credible allegations of child abuse”.

The report acknowledges that, in hindsight, the Vatican’s investigations into the allegations against McCarrick were of a “limited nature”.

In July 2018, McCarrick became the first person to resign as a cardinal since 1927. Pope Francis suspended him from all priestly duties the following February.

He is among hundreds of members of the clergy accused of sexually abusing children over several decades.

“We publish the report with sorrow for the wounds that these events have caused to the victims, their families, the Church in the United States and the universal Church,” said the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

He is alleged to have assaulted a teenager in the early 1970s, while working as a priest in New York. The claims were made public by the current Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Cardinal Dolan said an independent forensic agency had investigated the allegations. A 2018 review board, including legal experts, psychologists, parents and a priest, then found the allegations “credible and substantiated”.

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At the time, McCarrick said he had “no recollection of this reported abuse” and believed in his innocence.

Several men have since accused him of sexual misconduct at a beach house in New Jersey, where he allegedly took them while they studied for the priesthood as adult seminarians. One man said he was assaulted while still a minor.

It also emerged that financial settlements were reached in at least two cases of alleged sexual misconduct involving McCarrick.

They involved “allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago” while he was working as a bishop in New Jersey, bishops in the state told US media.

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