What Would a Brother Bishop Say to Ex-Cardinal McCarrick?

In regards to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, various bishops have begun to comment. Here is what I would hope one of them might privately say directly to the ex-cardinal, who should not be a passive actor in all of this.

Dear Ted,

I presume we can dispense with titles, especially now that you have dispensed with your cardinalatial one. In any case, I write to you as a brother bishop and fellow disciple, distraught on both counts at the events of the last weeks. The earth is moving beneath us, Ted, and I write today to ask you to do what is good for you as a disciple, and necessary for you as a shepherd of the flock entrusted to us.

My last note to you, back in May for the 60th anniversary of your priestly ordination, was full of warm wishes for the Lord’s blessing upon you. Yes, it was the customary greeting we send each other for jubilees. I had no idea at the time that I was writing to a brother I will never see again.

The Lord has given you a great blessing now, a grace that is difficult, but still a grace. This grace has come to you late in the evening of life. It is certainly undeserved, and perhaps undesired. But it is a grace to face all this in advance of the fearsome judgment you will face on the day of your death, which is coming sooner rather than later. There is little time left, and there are urgent matters to deal with.

Those who are close to you tell me that you are frail and it is not to be presumed that there will be a 61st anniversary next May. If these revelations had not come until after your death, you may well have gone to your judgment still unrepentant for grievous sins and still committed to maintaining the frauds you perpetuated for most of your priesthood.

Regardless of the particulars of a canonical trial, it is not possible for you to show your face in public again. Do not be mistaken, Ted. The very mention of your name these past weeks prompts sadness in all, disgust in most, and even revulsion in a great many very faithful Catholics — myself included.

I cannot bring myself to write here what some of my priests say about you, but make no mistake, they are saying it. What they are saying about us bishops as a whole is also devastating, and we have earned it for tolerating and celebrating your rise in our ranks. Yours is a disgrace in which we now all share.

But those are only the consequences in this world. The horizon of eternity is more terrifying still, and the more important question is how you will spend the remaining time before you die. God makes his mercy available to all without limit, but only the truly repentant can receive it.

It’s time for confession, contrition and penance. Maybe you don’t remember the specific incident that the New York Review Board found “credible and substantiated,” but if you examine your conscience, you will remember plenty else. I trust that you have already, in these weeks, taken advantage of the painful grace of the revelations to make a general confession. But our priests and suffering laymen and women need to hear you say it clearly: Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpaI have sinned against God and against you.

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