Recent allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick include reports that he made sexual advances toward seminarians during his tenure as Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark.
CNA recently spoke to six priests of the Archdiocese of Newark, and one priest member of a religious order who was a seminarian in New York in the early 1970s, while McCarrick was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.
Citing archdiocesan policy and concerns about ecclesiastical repercussions for their candor, the priests agreed to speak to CNA only under the condition of anonymity. The priests spoke individually to CNA, and their accounts were compared for confirmation.
The religious priest who spoke to CNA said when he studied in a seminary in New York, McCarrick, who was then an aide to Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York, would sometimes visit the seminary. The priest said that McCarrick’s reputation was already well established by this time.
“The dean of our theology school was a classmate at CUA with McCarrick, and he knew about the rumors,” the priest told CNA, “he spoke about them with the other faculty and theologians very openly.”
So well-known was McCarrick’s reputation, the priest said, that when McCarrick would accompany Cooke to visit the seminary there was a standing joke that they had to “hide the handsome ones” before he arrived.
The same reputation reportedly followed the archbishop years later, when he served from 1986-2000 as Archbishop of Newark. One priest of the Archdiocese of Newark told CNA it was an uncomfortable experience when McCarrick came to visit the seminary.
The priest said that McCarrick would often place his hand on seminarians while talking with them, or on their thighs while seated near them.
“It was really unnerving. On the one hand you knew – knew – what was going on but you couldn’t believe it.”
Several other priests from Newark spoke to CNA about similar experiences.
One priest worked in close proximity to the archbishop in the archdiocesan chancery for a number of years. “There were the ‘nephews,’ for sure,” he said. “He had a type: tall, slim, intelligent – but no smokers.”
The priest told CNA that, in addition to trips to a house on the shore, McCarrick would invite young men to stay the night in the cathedral rectory in central Newark.
“Priests would tell me ‘he’s sleeping with them’ all the time, but I couldn’t believe it – they seemed like perfectly normal guys,” the priest said.
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