The highest-ranking American at the Vatican insisted Tuesday he never knew or even suspected that his former boss, disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, allegedly sexually abused boys and adult seminarians, telling The Associated Press he is livid that he was kept in the dark because he would have done something about it.
Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican’s family and laity office, spoke as the U.S. church hierarchy has come under fire from ordinary American Catholics outraged that McCarrick’s misconduct with men was apparently an open secret in some U.S. church circles.
Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation as cardinal on Saturday and ordered him to live a lifetime of penance and prayer pending the outcome of a canonical trial.
In an open letter Tuesday, a contributor to the conservative Catholic magazine First Things urged Catholics to withhold diocesan donations to the U.S. church until an independent investigation determines which U.S. bishops knew about McCarrick’s misdeeds — a “nuclear option” aimed at making the laity’s sense of betrayal heard and felt.
Some of that outrage has been directed at Farrell, who was consecrated as a bishop by McCarrick in 2001 and served as his vicar general in the archdiocese of Washington until McCarrick’s 2006 retirement. Some Catholic commentators have speculated that Farrell must have at least heard the rumors that Catholic laity, students and professors at Catholic University in Washington and even some journalists had heard.
Farrell lived with McCarrick and other priests and bishops in a converted school building off Dupont Circle that serves as a residence for Washington clergy. But Farrell said he never heard any rumors about his boss’ penchant for young men, or suspected anything, and was not McCarrick’s roommate, as some bloggers have claimed.
“That might be hard for somebody to believe, but if that’s the only thing on your mind, well then you’ll focus on that. I was focused on running the archdiocese. What Cardinal McCarrick was doing here, there and everywhere and all over the world, didn’t enter into my daily routine of running the archdiocese of Washington,” he said.
“At no time did anyone ever approach me and tell me. And I was approached by over 70 victims of abuse from all over the United States after 2002,” when the U.S. sex abuse scandal first erupted, Farrell said.
“Never once did I even suspect,” he said. “Now, people can say ‘Well you must be a right fool that you didn’t notice.’ I must be a right fool, but I don’t think I am. And that’s why I feel angry.”
McCarrick, 88, was initially removed from public ministry on June 20 after U.S. church officials determined that an accusation that he fondled a teenage altar server in New York in the 1970s was “credible and substantiated.”
Since then, another man identified only as James has come forward saying that McCarrick first exposed himself to him when he was 11 and then engaged in a sexually abusive relationship with him for the next 20 years. McCarrick has denied the initial accusation but has not responded to the second one.
At the time of McCarrick’s June removal, the New Jersey archdioceses of Newark and Metuchen revealed that they had received three complaints from adults alleging misconduct and harassment by McCarrick and had settled two of them.
It was apparently no secret that McCarrick invited seminarians to his New Jersey beach house and into his bed, suggesting that some in the U.S. hierarchy knew of his abuse of power but turned a blind eye. Certainly the New Jersey bishops who handled the settlements in 2005 and 2007 would have known.
In addition, a group of concerned American Catholics reportedly traveled to the Vatican in 2000 to warn of McCarrick’s misconduct, but he was still appointed Washington archbishop and made a cardinal in 2001.
As head of the most politically powerful U.S. archdiocese, McCarrick took a lead role in the U.S. bishops’ 2002 response to the sex abuse scandal. He served as a spokesman when the bishops were summoned to the Vatican that spring and then helped craft the “zero tolerance” policy they adopted at a landmark congress in Dallas later that year.
That hypocrisy is what is driving the sense of betrayal among rank-and-file Catholics, and the anger they are directing at McCarrick’s fellow bishops.
“Not only did they not produce what they promised, but we have a level of downright depravity that was right in their midst while they were making these promises,” said Marjorie Murphy Campbell, a civil and canon lawyer in Park City, Utah, who has called for an independent investigation into the scandal.
On Monday, Catholic University of America revoked the honorary degree it gave McCarrick in 2006, following in the footsteps of Fordham University in New York. Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, has suggested that McCarrick be defrocked and for all those in the hierarchy who knew to be held accountable “for their refusal to act, thereby enabling others to be hurt.”
Farrell, 71, said he only met McCarrick after McCarrick arrived in Washington, where he was appointed archbishop in November 2000.
Farrell said he never expected to remain working in the Washington archdiocesan chancery because he wanted to get back to being a pastor at the Annunciation parish on Massachusetts Avenue. He said he turned down McCarrick’s request that he give up the parish three times, but then was told by the Vatican ambassador that he was being made a bishop.
Farrell also said he didn’t know anything about misconduct with seminarians at a New Jersey beach house and that no accusations against McCarrick were ever brought to the Washington archdiocese, which from 2002 onwards was deluged with claims from victims of sexually abusive clergy.
“If there were a complaint … I would have discussed it with the (archdiocesan) chancellor, who was a woman at the time, a woman who was in charge of victims and in charge of all the telephone calls we would get,” he said.
The current archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, has said that a review of archdiocesan records showed no complaints about McCarrick.
“There is no record there,” Farrell told the AP. “Because I would know about it.”
Farrell said that in retrospect, if he had known that McCarrick took seminarians to a beach house it would have raised a red flag. But he also recalled that when he was growing up, he played soccer with a priest-led squad, and that American priests used to regularly run retreats for young people.
“He didn’t invite Washington seminarians there — that I would have known,” Farrell said of the beach house. He also said that if the rumors about McCarrick were so well known, “it would have been looked at” by Vatican authorities who vet bishop nominations.
But McCarrick was an effective fundraiser even before he came to Washington, and the Vatican has a history of ignoring reports of sexual misconduct for clergy adept at bringing in donations and vocations.
Farrell said he didn’t want to dwell on the McCarrick scandal anymore as he helps organize the Catholic Church’s huge family rally in his native Ireland next month, which will be presided over by Francis. In a remarkable shift, it is being led by a 2-to-3 margin by laity.
Farrell said he understands the betrayal felt by ordinary Catholics over McCarrick.
“I feel it myself,” he said.
When Theodore McCarrick arrived in D.C. in 2001 to be the region’s Catholic archbishop, it was clear right away that he was something very rare: a celebrity priest.
The vivacious cleric reportedly had spent time with famous Americans such as Bing Crosby and the Hearst family. He was a prolific fundraiser for big-name Catholic groups from right to left, and valued for his connection to Pope John Paul II, who dispatched McCarrick to hot spots worldwide as his diplomat. President George W. Bush, also new in town that January, marked his first private dinner in D.C. by going to the home of the new archbishop.
McCarrick’s gilded résumé stood in striking contrast to his public demeanor, that of a self-effacing do-gooder who, in a city full of egos and polish, wore rumpled clothes and exhibited a voracious drive to help others.
“I wish I were a holier man, more prayerful, more trusting in God, wiser and courageous,” he said at his first D.C. news conference. “But here I am with all my faults and all my needs, and we will work together.”
McCarrick’s “faults and needs” are being considered in a new light after he became the first cardinal in U.S. history to resign from the post.
The resignation, accepted by Pope Francis, followed explosive allegations that the cleric sexually abused adolescents and sexually harassed seminarians and young priests under his authority.
The accusations have shocked and devastated McCarrick’s many fans, leaving some to conclude that their hero apparently lived a double life. But to others who worked closely with him over the decades, the cardinal was always a more complex figure than his saintly public reputation conveyed. He was a man of enormous personal ambition, a skillful politician and, at times, shrewdly calculating, according to interviews with Catholic officials and others who knew and worked with him.
McCarrick stated his innocence after the first allegation that he abused a 16-year-old decades ago, which led to his suspension from ministry. He has since been in seclusion and has not responded to requests for comment. McCarrick’s civil attorney, Barry Coburn, has declined to comment. McCarrick’s canonical attorney, Michael Ritty, declined to comment after the initial allegation and has not responded to repeated additional requests for comment. The Vatican has opened a case on McCarrick that could result in a church trial. Possible outcomes include defrocking and exoneration.
In 1988, McCarrick co-founded the Papal Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises millions for the Vatican. He sometimes rushed to the side of the country’s wealthiest Catholics in their times of personal crisis, following up to raise money later, according to two people who witnessed such interactions.
“The Papal Foundation was a huge point of leverage for him in terms of going to Rome,” said Steve Schneck, the longtime head of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University. Schneck worked often with McCarrick. “There is not a Catholic organization in the United States he hasn’t raised money for.”
Schneck admired McCarrick, but others used less favorable terms to describe him.
“He was a climber,” said someone who worked closely with McCarrick in the past. Like several others in this report, the person spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to violate the church’s protocol that only official spokespeople discuss McCarrick.
McCarrick’s popularity and his enormous stature as an emissary for the church and as a prolific fundraiser for Catholic causes may have helped protect him over the years as other, whispered words were added to his reputation: harasser, groper, violator of his vows of celibacy.
Settlements and rumors of abuse
Although allegations that McCarrick abused adolescents surfaced only last month, when the Vatican suspended the 88-year-old, there had for decades been rumors in church and journalistic circles about his behavior with seminarians. These ranged from talk of an unwanted hand on a knee to chatter on conservative Catholic blogs citing anonymous descriptions of sex parties.
The day he was suspended, two New Jersey dioceses made public that they had fielded three complaints from budding priests against McCarrick and had settled two of the cases. Last week, Albany priest Desmond Rossi became the first cleric to go on record as saying McCarrick’s casual touches during seminary in the 1980s made him uncomfortable. Rossi told the Jesuit magazine America that he thinks McCarrick’s conduct at the time fueled inappropriate behavior among seminarians, which he said forced him to transfer to another seminary outside of McCarrick’s jurisdiction.
Some who had heard the rumors and allegations surrounding McCarrick said they did not speak out because he was so greatly admired for his role in the church. But there are other possible reasons McCarrick’s alleged actions are coming to light only now.
Some at the time dismissed as unreliable the attacks on McCarrick, who was often seen as left-leaning, because they came largely from conservative bloggers. That same impulse appears to now be leading some conservatives eager to find fault with the Pope Francis era to highlight the McCarrick case. Conservative blogs have been filled in recent days with rumors that Francis’s U.S. allies — cardinals including Joe Tobin of Newark and Blase Cupich in Chicago — are close to McCarrick, an effort to tarnish Francis by association. One inaccurately said McCarrick and Tobin worked together.
There is also a long-standing deference within the Catholic Church to upholding institutional hierarchy and protocol, even in an extreme case like this. Priests, cardinals and bishops have said they told the Vatican years ago about McCarrick — either about the rumors or about the two legal settlements New Jersey dioceses reached with him in the early 2000s — and there’s no evidence anything was ever done. Victims never heard from Rome, and McCarrick was functioning as a priest until a few weeks ago, speaking to Catholic audiences and performing weddings and baptisms.
Requests from The Washington Post for comment from Rome haven’t been returned for weeks.
A friend to celebrities
McCarrick’s career stood out from the start.
Many ambitious Catholic clerics spend time in seminary and graduate school in Rome, making connections around the Vatican.
Yet McCarrick spent much of his early career in the New York City area, where he had grown up. He graduated from Fordham University, attended seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., and was ordained a priest in New York City, cementing connections that helped speed his rise later on.
His first assignment was as dean of students and fundraising at Catholic University in D.C., the bishops’ own university.
He was then named president of a Catholic university in Puerto Rico at age 35 and then secretary, in the mid-1970s, to the cardinal of New York City.
From there, McCarrick began an unbroken stream of promotions, garnering some of the nation’s highest civic and religious honors. He was taken as a young priest under the wing of two powerful New York City cleric-bosses — Cardinal Francis Spellman, and Cardinal Terence James Cooke, whom McCarrick served through the 1970s.
“He had what we call the ‘godfathers,’ of the church,” said the person who worked for years with McCarrick.
Around that time, McCarrick was becoming a jet-setting fundraiser, said James, 60, who lives in Loudoun County, Va., and earlier this month accused McCarrick of sexually abusing him from age 11 or so until he was in his early 30s in an interview with The New York Times. He lived in New Jersey when the abuse began, he says.
James, who spoke to The Post on the condition that his last name not be used, filed a police report on July 17 with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, a copy of which The Post has seen.
James’s extended family was close to McCarrick, who had baptized him as a baby, he said. Through his later teens and 20s, James told that he attended many fundraising dinners with McCarrick, as well as meetings with potential donors in various places, including Northern California, Chicago and Boston. In 1974, when James was a teenager, he said McCarrick took several trips to California to console the Catholic millionaire publishing family of Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped by leftist radicals. James’s family had moved by then to the West Coast. James’s sister told The Post that she recalled the visits, as well. Requests for comment to Hearst and one of her siblings were not answered.
Later, McCarrick made use of the relationship to raise money from the family, James said.
James also said McCarrick visited and solicited donations from Bing Crosby, who, like the Hearsts, was Catholic. McCarrick delivered the homily at Crosby’s New York funeral Mass, but a spokesman for the Crosby family said that while “Bing hardly ever turned down a request from a priest,” he could not easily locate records of such donations.
James said he then fell into a damaging pattern with McCarrick for the next two decades, and spent time with the priest — including in sexual encounters. Often McCarrick was traveling for pastoral and fundraising trips, and he would bring James along, the man said.
“Sometimes he’d just speak at the table, he’d give a homily, the after-dinner homily,” James said. “We’d be in a private dining area, and everybody would just open their purses and … write checks. All they’d say is, ‘Who do I make the checks out to?’ ”
McCarrick had a core pitch: “We have so much, they have so little. We need to speak the word of God so they have something,” James recalled.
In the 1980s, McCarrick was among those who established the Papal Foundation, meant to support the Vatican during an Italian banking crisis. Wealthy donors pledge a minimum of $1 million; the group has an endowment of $215 million, according to its site.
The person who worked with McCarrick in the past said McCarrick worked hard to woo Pope John Paul II, leaving his diocese to see the pope whenever possible. McCarrick traveled to Cuba and Mexico during John Paul’s visits to those countries.
“Wherever the pope was, he was. He tried to be noticed,” the person said. He said McCarrick became somewhat close to John Paul’s secretary, the Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, which helped him get closer to the pope.
When the pope came to the United States in 1995, he flew directly to Newark.
McCarrick “was just a genius at schmoozing,” said the Rev. Boniface Ramsey, a New York City priest who worked at a New Jersey seminary when McCarrick was bishop there. “I think it was all to suck up to John Paul II.”
Yet McCarrick’s decades of pavement-pounding for money were part of the reason he was considered so holy.
He was raising many millions for needy causes, from persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East to aid for immigrants to low-cost housing. He helped groups from the political right to left, from the Knights of Columbus to Catholic Relief Services. Although he also raised money for conservative causes, he was often viewed as left-leaning, primarily because he focused on causes such as alleviating poverty and supporting immigration rather than efforts against abortion and in support of Catholic views on sexuality.
He was also unusually public in the early 2000s in speaking out for survivors of clerical sex abuse; he was involved in the church’s efforts to write policies aimed at preventing abuse and was an early advocate for zero-tolerance for priests who abuse.
McCarrick’s ambition and fundraising prowess were not considered self-enriching. Some who worked with him over the years said that when it came to himself, the cardinal was thrifty and lived very simply. He wore an old raincoat, and his staff one year gave him a Macy’s gift card so he would get some new clothes.
“He had no entourage, wasn’t pompous, unlike traditional powers in the church and public life,” said a person active in church organizations who collaborated on causes with McCarrick. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he said he was concerned about being identified as speaking favorably about McCarrick, given the allegations that have surfaced.
In 2001, McCarrick was awarded the position of D.C. archbishop — a relatively small city but because of its prominence as the U.S. capital, a post viewed as the ticket to an automatic “red hat,” or cardinal spot. Indeed, he became a cardinal that year.
About this time in the early 2000s, Pope John Paul II’s health was starting to fade, and the culture wars within the Catholic Church — intensified by the liberalizing Second Vatican Council of the 1960s — revved up even more as it became clear that there would soon be a new pope.
It was also around this time that rumors about McCarrick and his treatment of seminarians seem to have spread further. Many of them were on a few conservative blogs, and contained anonymous, secondhand allegations that McCarrick had pressured young men studying to be priests to sleep in his bed. Some abuse watchdog sites published reports, as well.
But some Catholics who had heard the unsubstantiated rumors dismissed them as the product of church politics seeking to vilify those deemed too liberal. That remained the case in the following decade.
Someone whose organization honored McCarrick said they looked into the rumors. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they didn’t want their work to be associated with the case.
“It sounded like disgruntled conservative Catholics. I didn’t give credence to the source,” the person said. “It seemed ideologically motivated.”
As the rumors swirled in the early 2000s in certain pockets of the budding Catholic blogosphere, quietly the diocese of Metuchen, N.J., and the archdiocese of Newark were fielding three formal complaints about McCarrick and his treatment of seminarians and a young priest. Two were settled, the dioceses said in a statement last month, the day the Vatican suspended McCarrick, the first time any church office said on the record that there had been a complaint about the senior cleric.
McCarrick retired as archbishop shortly after he turned 75, in 2006. It’s standard for bishops to offer their retirement to the Vatican at that age, but it’s common for them to keep working for years if both sides wish. McCarrick was a hard-working striver whose routine didn’t appear to slow until very recently.
He remained extremely active in the church, traveling on diplomatic missions, fundraising and officiating weddings and baptisms.
The person who worked with McCarrick said they suspect church leaders in Rome had chastised McCarrick in some way, telling him to pull back from public life.
“But he did whatever he damn well wanted,” the person said.
These days there are limits.
Now that he has been suspended from ministry and resigned, the globe-trotting, vivacious McCarrick is not allowed to wear clerical garb in public. He also may not present himself as a priest. His movements must be approved by the Vatican’s representative in Washington. However, in the privacy of his own room, McCarrick may still say Mass for himself.
Correction: An earlier version of this story omitted the first name of Cardinal Terence James Cooke.
This story has been updated to say that The New York Times first interviewed James about his abuse allegations against McCarrick.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl speaks to reporters at the Washington, DC, March for Life in 2013. Patrick Craine / LifeSiteNews
McCarrick’s former secretary claims Cardinal Wuerl didn’t know about abuse
Mon Jul 30, 2018 – 3:09 pm EST
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 30, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Donald Wuerl knew nothing of the abuse settlements paid to sex abuse victims of his predecessor Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, according to a letter sent to priests of the Archdiocese of Washington.
The letter, which came from Archdiocesan Vicar General Monsignor Charles Antonicelli, informed priests in the Archdiocese: “Neither the Archdiocese of Washington nor Cardinal Wuerl knew about these confidential settlements until this most recent credible and substantiated allegation against Cardinal McCarrick was made public.”
Antonicelli was McCarrick’s secretary when the cardinal was the Archbishop of Washington.
These settlements, for $100,000 and $80,000, were paid by the Dioceses of Trenton, Metuchen, and Newark in 2004 and 2006 to two men who had been abused by McCarrick while they were in the seminary as well as after they had become priests. McCarrick, known for being left-wing and supporting the distribution of Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, was installed as Archbishop of Washington at the beginning of 2001. He retired in 2006; Wuerl succeeded him.
“For clarity, the Archdiocese of Washington did not participate in, make any contributions to, nor was involved in any way with these settlement agreements,” wrote Antonicelli. He said the Archdiocese of Washington found out about these settlements – which occurred when McCarrick was its leader – the same way as the public did, via recent media reports.
Since McCarrick was removed from public ministry over a credible allegation he molested an altar boy 50 years ago, whistleblowers and victims have come forward to describe McCarrick’s predatory behavior and the disregard they received from Church officials when reporting it.
Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals this weekend. On Saturday morning, the Vatican issued a short statement that McCarrick would stay at an undisclosed location and live “a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.”
Julia Duin at Get Religion wrote that she found Wuerl’s statement to local station WTOP in reaction to McCarrick’s resignation suspicious.
Wuerl told WTOP: “I think this was a big step forward in trying to act quickly, decisively, even though the whole procedure isn’t concluded yet. The pope is saying that we need to show that we are hearing these things, paying attention and acting.”
“Oddly, I could not find any video of Wuerl’s remarks on WTOP’s site, so I could not tell if he answered all the questions he was asked or whether he dodged any,” Duin wrote.
WTOP reported that Wuerl said he had “never been approached with allegations of abuse by McCarrick and was unaware of the rumors that have been associated with his predecessor.”
“What? Seriously? I can’t believe any reporter let him get away with that statement,” Duin continued. “This mess has been going on for more than a month and Cardinal Wuerl has yet to give a press conference about it. History’s being made here and Wuerl’s now camera shy?”
“I can possibly buy the first part of that sentence in that the dioceses that were approached were Metuchen and Newark. McCarrick hopefully ceased his sexual activity after becoming archbishop of Washington in 2000,” Duin allowed. “But the second part? That he didn’t know what the rumors were? He didn’t know about any financial settlements? And ‘abuse of a minor’? How about the reports about the abuse of seminarians?”
She expressed doubt that Wuerl had never heard any rumors of McCarrick assaulting or harassing seminarians:
Reporters must not give Wuerl a pass on this. I can understand how maybe, just maybe in 2006, when he was made archbishop of Washington, he might not have known the specifics on McCarrick. But not knowing the rumors after 12 years? This is a man who’s known as a power player in the Vatican. You think the folks over there just forgot to tell him about McCarrick?
One also wonders whether when Wuerl took office, any of the New Jersey bishops who had to shell out money to McCarrick’s victims warned Wuerl of the liability his predecessor posed.
Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, appointed by Pope Francis to run a new commission on child sex abuse, also says he didn’t know about allegations against McCarrick even though a priest sent him a letter about it in 2015.
“Recent media reports also have referenced a letter sent to me from Rev. Boniface Ramsey, O.P. in June of 2015, which I did not personally receive,” O’Malley wrote in the Boston Pilot. “In keeping with the practice for matters concerning the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, at the staff level the letter was reviewed and determined that the matters presented did not fall under the purview of the Commission or the Archdiocese of Boston, which was shared with Fr. Ramsey in reply.”
The Archdiocese of Boston has strict mandatory reporting policies when it comes child abuse, but those apparently do not compel clergy to report allegations against senior church officials outside the diocese. O’Malley’s statement did not indicate that his secretary, Father Robert Kickham, who responded to Ramsey’s letter, did anything beyond telling the fellow priest that the matter was not under their “purview.”
McCarrick reportedly lived on the grounds of a seminary during retirement. Allowing the cardinal to be in such a close proximity to young men actually seems consistent with the Archdiocese’s claim to not have known about his proclivities. However, as Duin pointed out in an earlier piece:
I covered the Pope Benedict’s 2008 visit to Washington, D.C. (and other cities) and I remember McCarrick was sidelined during those festivities. Rumor was that he was not happy about being deprived of a bigger role.
Look for this fact: Whose idea was it to take McCarrick down a peg, especially since McCarrick has always been a key source for national media?
Despite the statements from Wuerl and O’Malley, there are more questions than answers about who knew of McCarrick’s abuse, when they knew, and why they remained silent.
That McCarrick’s former secretary Antonicelli, now Washington’s Vicar General, is the one insisting of the archdiocese’s ignorance will almost certainly raise even more questions.
A Catholic cardinal has weathered sex abuse allegations for years. Now they’re finally public.
Theodore McCarrick has resigned from the College of Cardinals after allegations of abusing both children and adults.