A FEATURE of the Catholic Church’s rippling sexual abuse scandal is that past predations and coverups are often revealed by journalists, government authorities or victims and their advocates, but rarely by the church itself. That has been the case whether the alleged abusers were small-town priests, prominent bishops or the most renowned of the church’s alleged predators: former cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, who served as archbishop of Washington.
The pattern has reinforced the impression of a church culturally incapable of reckoning on its own with what amounts to a systematic moral collapse. For even after repeated pledges of transparency, zero tolerance, and a new era of accountability from the pope and other senior officials in Rome and the United States, fresh allegations surface of rape, assault, molestation and other outrages, and generally the news comes from sources other than church figures.
An instructive case is that of Mr. McCarrick, who, after he was credibly accused of abusing minors as well as young adult seminarians, was removed from the College of Cardinals last year and defrocked this year by the Vatican — the most severe such punishment meted out to a Catholic cardinal in modern memory. In a Vatican statement more than a year ago, Pope Francis pledged that “we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead” in Mr. McCarrick’s case, combing through “the entire documentation” in church records and making known conclusions and relevant facts.
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