As Rumors of Sexual Misdeeds Swirled, Cardinal McCarrick Became a Powerful Fundraiser for the Vatican

When Theodore McCarrick arrived in D.C. in 2001 to be the region’s Catholic archbishop, it was clear right away that he was something very rare: a celebrity priest.

The vivacious cleric reportedly had spent time with famous Americans such as Bing Crosby and the Hearst family. He was a prolific fundraiser for big-name Catholic groups from right to left, and valued for his connection to Pope John Paul II, who dispatched McCarrick to hot spots worldwide as his diplomat. President George W. Bush, also new in town that January, marked his first private dinner in D.C. by going to the home of the new archbishop.

McCarrick’s gilded résumé stood in striking contrast to his public demeanor, that of a self-effacing do-gooder who, in a city full of egos and polish, wore rumpled clothes and exhibited a voracious drive to help others.

“I wish I were a holier man, more prayerful, more trusting in God, wiser and courageous,” he said at his first D.C. news conference. “But here I am with all my faults and all my needs, and we will work together.”

McCarrick’s “faults and needs” are being considered in a new light after he became the first cardinal in U.S. history to resign from the post.

The resignation, accepted by Pope Francis, followed explosive allegations that the cleric sexually abused adolescents and sexually harassed seminarians and young priests under his authority.

The accusations have shocked and devastated McCarrick’s many fans, leaving some to conclude that their hero apparently lived a double life. But to others who worked closely with him over the decades, the cardinal was always a more complex figure than his saintly public reputation conveyed. He was a man of enormous personal ambition, a skillful politician and, at times, shrewdly calculating, according to interviews with Catholic officials and others who knew and worked with him.

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