The year 2018 was a stark and, in many ways, defining one for the Catholic Church. Still slowly recovering from the ongoing revelations of the devastating clerical child sex abuse scandal and its widespread coverup by bishops, another major revelation rocked the Church in the U.S. and across the globe, shaking the faith of millions: the notorious exposé of the crimes of serial rapist and then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
As has been well-documented, McCarrick was a bishop for over four decades under five different pontificates and, during that time, raped and sexually abused numerous boys — some of them underage, many of them seminarians, and some of them even priests — and spiritually and emotionally abused countless more. As if his double life of ersatz public piety and secret diabolical debauchery weren’t bad enough, McCarrick was considered at the time to be the most powerful Catholic bishop in the U.S. and one of the most powerful in the whole world. He rose through the ranks, climbing to the upper echelons of the College of Cardinals while sodomizing children and raping young men who wanted to serve Christ through the priesthood.
Worse still, everyone seemed to know. Many of McCarrick’s brother bishops feigned a sudden sadness upon learning of their once-esteemed colleague’s crimes, but none were genuinely surprised. Bishop Steven Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter confirmed this, lambasting his brother bishops for their pretensions to surprise. “I’ll tell you what response I think is not good enough,” he said. “It’s the parade of cardinals and bishops who have rushed to the television cameras clutching their pectoral crosses, saying, ‘I knew nothing.’ … We all knew.” Lopes even recalled that when McCarrick was named archbishop of Newark in 1986, the seminarians, including then-seminarian Lopes, knew what would happen when he would visit the seminary.
Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston was alerted of McCarrick’s crimes as early as 2015 but kept silent, despite leading Pope Francis’ sex abuse prevention commission. Clerical sex abuse expert A.W. Richard Sipe wrote to now-Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego in 2016, describing McCarrick’s history of rape and abuse. McElroy also remained silent. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former papal nuncio to the U.S., even alleged that Pope Francis himself knew of McCarrick’s crimes and personally chose to lift sanctions Pope Benedict XVI had placed on the predatory prelate.
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