A few cardinals have roused themselves to respond to the month-old press disclosures that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is a pederast, whereas before he was merely well known as a serial sexual harasser. Their response is depressing in the extreme and should make any Catholic or person of good will wish for their immediate, tearful confessions of fault, and their resignations of high ecclesial office.
Before mainstream media outlets finally reported on his lewd and criminal behavior, McCarrick was the face of the American episcopacy’s response to the sex-abuse crisis in 2002. His lewd behavior with seminarians was an open secret among priests and informed laity. Expert witnesses in priest-abuse cases, such as Richard Sipe, had long ago publicized what they knew of the behavior of “Uncle Ted.” A concerned group of laity and clerics pleaded their case against him in Rome before his elevation to the College of Cardinals. Churchmen across the country who didn’t call him “Uncle Ted” with affection or disgust had another nickname related to his proclivities: “Blanche.”
American bishops now facing questions about what they knew and when have had to choose between looking clueless or complicit. So far, they are choosing the former. They are not, however, very persuasive in presenting themselves as ignorant of the rumors.
So let’s review what these churchmen have said and ask some questions about their responses to these “revelations.”
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