From the Catholic Standard, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, this column by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, dated February 28, 2002. Excerpt:
There are certain things you don’t want to write about. They are too sad or too sordid or so strange that they give you an uncomfortable feeling right in the pit of your stomach. One of these is pedophilia or child abuse. It seems that so many people are writing about this topic in the media these days that another column would be unnecessary, but the letters I get from some of you in my Archdiocesan family indicate that there are enough folks who would want me to talk about it too.
What shall I say? A few weeks ago I was on a live news program on TV and the second question I got was about child abuse. The question caught me by surprise since I was supposed to be discussing another topic, but it did give me a chance to say what I felt from my heart. Hurting a child or a young person through sexual or physical abuse is always despicable and to be condemned whoever the offender is, but when the perpetrator is someone who is trusted by the child because of his role or his profession, the wrong that is done is multiplied and is all the more horrendous. My heart breaks at the suffering this causes the children and their families and I want to add my own deep apologies for any and every crime of this kind by a priest or a minister of religion here or anywhere.
… I ask you to join me in prayer for the victims of this crime, for their families, and also for the sick and tragic men who have caused all this pain.
May the terrible scars of the children who have suffered – and who now in their adult life still feel the pain and the loss of trust – be made to heal by the love of their families and by the prayers of our community of faith. I hesitated to write you on this, dear friends, because we seem to run into these stories wherever we turn, but hearing from some of you and thinking of you all, I thought I should share my own sad thoughts with you.
At a time when many leaders of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church have been criticized as arrogant, secretive and uncaring, McCarrick has given the scandal-battered institution what it so badly needs: an attractive public face.
Assuming the role of leading spokesman for the U.S. cardinals during their meetings with Pope John Paul II on the sexual abuse crisis, McCarrick came across to many as candid, compassionate and committed to strong reform. In one interview after another, he spoke of a uniform national policy of “zero tolerance” toward priests who molest minors.
“I think he has emerged as a national leader, and I thought his voice was the most sensible voice,” said Scott Appleby, director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame. “He does get it, and he understands the depth of the problem and the need to address it transparently. . . . If his style of leadership were emulated, I think the church would be in better shape.”
James was 11 years old when Father Theodore E. McCarrick came into his bedroom in Northern New Jersey, looking for the bathroom. Father McCarrick, then 39 and a rising star in the Roman Catholic church, was a close family friend, whom James and his six siblings called Uncle Teddy. James was changing out of his bathing suit to get ready for dinner.
“He said, turn around,” James, who is now 60, recalled in an interview last week. “And I really don’t want to, because I don’t want to show anybody anything.” But he did, he said, and was shocked when Father McCarrick dropped his pants, too. “See, we are the same,” James said he told him. “It’s O.K., we are the same.”
It was the beginning of a sexually abusive relationship that would last nearly 20 years, James said in the interview, the first time he has spoken publicly about the trauma. He asked that his last name be withheld to protect a sibling.
As the decades passed, Father McCarrick became Cardinal McCarrick, one of the most prominent public faces of the Catholic Church in America. He was suddenly removed from ministry last month over a substantiated allegation that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old altar boy in 1971.
The news changed James’s life. “I got down on my knees and I thanked God that I am not alone and it is going to be O.K.,” James said, through sobs, recalling the moment. “And I can tell somebody and someone is going to believe me.”
By then, James said, Father McCarrick had begun abusing him sexually. When he was 13, he said, the priest first touched his penis. At 14, he said, Father McCarrick masturbated him in a beach parking lot. When he was 15, James said, Father McCarrick took him to a restaurant in San Francisco, the Tonga Room, and poured vodka in his drinks. He then brought him back to his hotel room and masturbated him and brought himself to orgasm, James said.
“I was absolutely disgusted, afraid,” James said. “I felt fear. What have I done?”
On visits to the East Coast, James, then 16 or 17, said he would go with other boys with Father McCarrick to a fishing camp in Eldred, N.Y., identical to the one described by adult seminarians who said McCarrick abused them there. On these visits, they would sleep together naked, James said, and Father McCarrick would touch him.
By then, James said he was drinking heavily and doing drugs, habits that began in his teenage years. He said he tried to dissociate himself from the archbishop in 1985, after meeting a woman he went on to marry.
The last time he visited Archbishop McCarrick, in 1989, he asked for money, he said; McCarrick refused, and never called him again. By then, James was 31.
Instead of feeling relief, James said, he spiraled downward. “I am done,” he said. “He has thrown me away.”
His marriage fell apart, and in 1991, he said, he attempted suicide. He landed in detox and has been sober since, he said.
It’s not nearly over. We now know of two minors McCarrick raped. There will be others.
Recall that people like Father Boniface Ramsey warned those in authority in the Church — the papal nuncio, and other American cardinals — about McCarrick’s molestation of seminarians when he was Archbishop of Newark, but nobody did a thing. It wouldn’t have helped those two boys we know he molested, but it would have kept this boy-raper from ascending to the Archdiocese of Washington, and getting a red hat.
Read those words from his 2002 column, a version of which he repeated over and over when the scandal was burning hot, to try to reassure the faithful and everybody else. All the while, he knew who he was, and what he had done. This man is a sociopath.
How many cardinals and bishops knew what he was, and turned a blind eye? Who is in his episcopal network? Who protected him in Rome? Why are there still people in the Church protecting him now?
How cheap do they think trust is, anyway?
Do these people fear God?