ROME — A leading U.S. organization dedicated to documenting the clergy sex abuse crisis believes there are “many more McCarricks” and has publicly named five bishops they believe should face the same fate as the disgraced former cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C.
At a press conference outside of St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Bishop Accountability made their case for the laicization of Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota; Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Agaña, Guam; Bishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba, Brazil; Bishop Roger Joseph Vangheluwe of Bruges, Belgium; and Bishop Joseph Hart of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
These men, according to Bishop Accountability’s co-president Anne Barrett Doyle, have been removed from their former posts and also should be removed from the clerical state.
“It is an insult to the Catholics of the world to hold forth McCarrick’s laicization as accountability,” she said. “We are past the stage of confusing a fired bishop as accountability. We haven’t even begun yet.”
The suggestion that there are more McCarrick-style cases in the Church is echoed today in a Crux interview with Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, a former Vatican prosecutor for sex abuse crimes and considered one of the Church’s leading reformers.
“If we haven’t found them yet, it means that we don’t know where they are,” Scicluna told Crux Thursday. “I think that cases where instead of stewardship we bishops offer a poisoned chalice, should be disclosed and addressed immediately as a matter of urgency.”
Barrett Doyle laid out the case Sunday for defrocking the five prelates targeted by Bishop Accountability.
Nienstedt, she argued, asked two rain-soaked teenagers to strip down in his hotel room while he did the same during World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005. She also said that “We know that he covered up for egregious offenders, not just in the distant past.”
In December, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, Nienstedt’s successor, announced that his predecessor would be unable to exercise public ministry in the archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis until allegations surrounding him are resolved.
Barrett Doyle also argued that it was particularly offensive that Nienstedt had been given the title of archbishop emeritus following his resignation in 2015.
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“Emeritus does not just mean former bishop, it’s a distinctive status…with rights and responsibilities,” said Barrett Doyle.
Turning to Apuron, who was initially placed on administrative leave in 2016 while a Vatican investigation took place, leading to a guilty verdict in 2018, she said that due to his appeals process, he technically remains the archbishop of Agaña, Guam
“There is a preponderance of evidence that he has inflicted incalculable harm,” she said.
Of Pagotto, Barrett Doyle noted that he was removed in 2016 for the stated reason of doing a poor job with the priests he selected for the diocese, when, in fact, according to her, he was “recruiting sex offenders.”
The diocese was recently ordered by Brazilian courts to pay the equivalent of 3.5 million dollars to victims abused by priests the prelate shielded.
The Belgian Vangheluwe admitted to abusing two of his nephews, and he, too, remains bishop emeritus.
“How is this possible?” asked Barrett Doyle.
She concluded with Hart, formerly of Kansas City, where the diocese has admitted to ten settlements with victims. In 2017, Bishop Steven Biegler, the current bishop of Cheyenne, refused to allow Hart to attend his installation Mass, and, as one of his first acts as bishop, opened an investigation into Hart’s potential abuse.
Barrett Doyle said that “this is what fraternal correction looks like,” adding that Biegler’s handling of Hart offers a model for other bishops to follow.
Joining Barrett Doyle was abuse survivor and Bishop Accountability board member Phil Saviano, who worked closely with the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” investigative team to expose abusive clergy in the archdiocese of Boston.
While he said the news of the McCarrick laicization on Saturday was a “bright spot,” he also added that he fears it may be a move to placate the Church’s critics.
“What I worry about is that this laicization is the equivalent of throwing a bone at critics of the Vatican and survivors like myself,” he said.
Looking ahead to the pope’s abuse summit where he has called the leader of every bishops’ conference around the world to Rome for a high stakes meeting set to begin on February 21, Barrett Doyle said that Bishop Accountability still hopes that the Vatican announces a special prosecutor to “thoroughly investigate the McCarrick affair,” so that anyone complicit in the cover-up of his actions will also be held accountable.
“McCarrick just can’t be a one and done,” said Barrett-Doyle. “There has to be some zeal, some intensity, some sincerity in the pope’s housekeeping efforts.”