As the dust begins to settle on the report on the rise to power of defrocked ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, survivors are lauded by many as the impetus of the 460-page Vatican document.
Had victim’s not come forward, one of the Church’s most notorious predators might still be in the Vatican’s most exclusive club.
“As a survivor of clergy sexual abuse and someone who worked closely with former Cardinal McCarrick, I welcome the Vatican’s report on his abusive activity, how it was hidden and covered up and who enabled this betrayal of trust and failed to act to protect victims and the Church,” said John Carr. “For me, the former cardinal’s repeated abuse of young people and children, his constant lies, and his ongoing refusal to accept responsibility and apologize are a greater betrayal of trust than what I experienced more than 50 years ago as a young seminarian.”
Carr is the founder and director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, but he previously served for over 20 years as director of the Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
He defined the McCarrick report as “long and a longtime coming,” and said he was grateful to Pope Francis for following through with his promise of not only having the report done but also published.
Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of clerical child abuse, said the report is “just another confirmation of the systemic corruption within the Catholic hierarchy,” and noted that even though the ability to “ignore evil in order to avoid scandal or to actively promote a colleague is clear in this report but it is not a new revelation.”
Collins was one of the original members of Pope Francis’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, but ended up resigning from the body out of frustration with the Roman Curia, the Vatican-based central government of the Catholic Church.
Though she welcomed the fact that the report means “we may be seeing a little more transparency,” this is “worthless” if it’s not equally accompanied by “transparent accountability,”
“There is wringing of hands around the past but no signs that the future will be different,” she said Nov. 11.
She says the McCarrick report is not about “which pope was responsible,” but about “what has been done to tackle the culture which allows bishops to enable an abuser because of his position.”
“Standing by and doing nothing in the face of evil is the scandal,” Collins argued, noting that many of the facts in the report have been known to the Vatican for years.
Though dozens of interviews were conducted to produce the Report on the Holy See’s Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), it’s also based “upon review of all relevant documents” primarily obtained from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Clergy and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Yet, Collins argued, nothing has thus far been done to “dismantle the clerical culture which leads bishops and cardinals to see themselves above the norms of civil society.”
Carr said he hoped the report will “strengthen Pope Francis’s call to end destructive clericalism and help end a culture of institutional corruption that has hidden, protected, and rewarded both abusers and those who enabled them or looked the other way.”
After having read the report, Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean abuse victim of notorious ex-priest Fernando Karadima, said he wished a similar document would be published for Chile, where 30 percent of the bishops’ conference is currently under investigation by the civil authorities for either abuse or its cover-up.
“To me, the report was quite shocking, but not surprising,” Cruz said the day the report was published. “Every time I read something like this, it’s such a pattern of corruption, of deception, of cover-up, of putting the survivors last.”
He also went after Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who published a report in 2018 accusing Pope Francis of having covered up for McCarrick, demanding the Argentine pontiff resign.
Yet, as Cruz notes, the report shows that it was Vigano who “didn’t do the interviews, who did not follow up, who did nothing but cover up.”
He argued that the Italian archbishop believes himself to be a “crusader of the faith,” when in the end, he’s only “using survivors as props to further his agenda.”
“It’s very upsetting to read about John Paul II and what he knew and didn’t do, see how many covered up for McCarrick and how they tried to smear Francis is just incredible,” Cruz said.
What the Catholic hierarchy knew about the abusive former cardinal, the survivor noted, “was much more than suspicion.”
“It makes me very sad but at the same time incredibly angry, and at the same time, incredibly frustrated for all those survivors, not only on this case who go through this, but every survivor in the world,” Cruz said. “This might have been a cardinal, but then you have [Father Marcial] Maciel and all that he did; you have our case, Karadima; and it’s such a pattern. You have the Sodalitium and what they’re doing to survivors and journalist trying to expose the truth.”
Maciel is the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who died soon after being sentenced to a life of penitence and prayer for having led a double life that included abusing his own children. And the Sodalitium of Christian Life is a religious movement founded by layman Fernando Figari, also investigated for abusing children.
Going back to Vigano, Cruz said he was amazed by the archbishop’s “arrogance,” adding that it’s “pathetic” to see how he accused Francis of covering up for McCarrick, when evidence – including pictures – show the Italian “bowing to McCarrick after giving him an award.”
Anne Barret Doyle, co-director of bishopaccountability.org, a website that documents clerical sexual abuse, said that the report is in many ways “impressive,” as it’s “the Vatican’s first forthright account of its own cover-up of a sexual predator. It is long, detailed, and it names enablers.”
However, she said, “the report has several notable deficiencies,” including the fact that it lets Francis off the hook: “Nobody gave him the files, he knew only that there had been rumors, etc.”
“McCarrick was a preeminent cardinal, effectively representing the Holy See to China,” she said. “Didn’t they wonder if those rumors had substance? Anyone with an internet connection could have discovered they did. Francis’s lack of curiosity was at best negligent, at worst corrupt.”
The report is a “powerful argument” as to why self-policing does not work when it comes to accountability. It’s full of instances in which papal representatives ask other bishops and cardinals for their opinion on McCarrick, which does not constitute an actual investigation into allegations.
“Accountability won’t happen without external oversight,” she said.
Barret Doyle said at the end of the day what matters is future reform.
“Will [the McCarrick report] lead to genuine, even revolutionary, reforms of canon law?”
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma