What did the American bishops know, and when did they know it? This is the question everyone is asking in the wake of public revelations that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had, for years, preyed on seminarians who visited his beach house. It is a reasonable question, a necessary question. I hope that someday soon, a few brave bishops will begin asking it, too—and giving the restive Catholic faithful some answers.
But it is not the most important question. For anyone exploring the corruption of the Catholic hierarchy, the question of how Cardinal McCarrick avoided exposure and prosecution, though important, is less critical than the question of how his rise through the ecclesiastical ranks continued, even while rumors about homosexual activities swirled around him. Why was McCarrick named archbishop of Washington, and given a cardinal’s red hat? Why was he allowed to promote his proteges, to serve special diplomatic assignments for the Vatican, to influence the selection of bishops and even of a Roman Pontiff, after his beach-house antics had become a matter of common knowledge?
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