USCCB 2002: A McCarrick Memory


As you know, dear reader, over these past months, memories from my seminarian days have surfaced, making me wince with pain as I realize what they actually meant.

Our American bishops have their annual meeting in Baltimore this week. The big news is that the Vatican nixed any voting on “policy remedies” to the sex-abuse problem.

The whole thing has me remembering the annual meeting sixteen years ago, when then-Cardinal McCarrick pretty much called the shots. (And when the supposedly “monarchical” Pope John Paul II allowed the bishops conference a lot more leeway than the supposedly “synodal” Pope Francis allows them now.)

Anyway, at that meeting in 2002, McCarrick seemed quite preoccupied with something. He insisted that the scandal of that year meant that any priest who committed sex abuse from then onward would have to suffer “zero-tolerance,” exclusion from ministry for good. But he insisted it wouldn’t be fair to make zero-tolerance retroactive. We can’t give second chances anymore. But we can’t revoke the second chances that we already gave.

At the time, many of us who were paying attention allowed McCarrick to manipulate our minds into seeing this as a fair and equitable solution. Of course it was not: It meant that the victims of abuses that happened before 2002 had to continue to see their abusers stand at the altar, interact with young people, and possibly begin to manipulate and abuse others.

Since 2002, sitting bishops have only addressed pre-2002 abuses when victims have made them do so. It is precisely the outcry of those very pre-2002 victims, who never got justice—their outcry has produced the Scandal of 2018. May God reward them for fearlessly standing up. And forcing us all to face the truth and live in it.

Looking back, we see: Theodore McCarrick desperately wanted to keep the pre-2002 truth hidden. And now we know why: When he spoke with such apparent “equanimity” about old cases, he spoke with pure self-interest. He was himself guilty. He wanted to continue to give a second chance to himself. He couldn’t be bothered to consider his victims, and their having a chance for a decent life. He just wanted to let himself off the hook, in his own tortured mind. He wanted to tell himself: okay, you have to cut it out from now on. But the previous dalliances? They should not face strict scrutiny; they can remain hidden.

…Oh, that McCarrick had actually been honest with himself sixteen years ago! Openly acknowledged the full truth about all the destructive, evil things he had done! Stood before the assembled bishops and admitted the now-known fact. Namely, that he deserved to be defrocked. And deserved to spend some serious time in jail.

If he had just admitted it, and given us all a chance to start fresh back then, in 2002–where would we be now? We would all be part of an institution with a great deal more integrity than it currently has.

Could the our bishops bring themselves to discuss these cold, hard facts right now? Could they examine how Baltimore 2002 had this big lie at the heart of it? (Which made Baltimore 2018 necessary.)

Don’t they see? If they did that–if they reckoned honestly with facts, instead of blah blah blah-ing endlessly on the purely theoretical level–if they studied reality, in other words–the sad reality of how Theodore McCarrick the liar made fools of them all–then they could begin to heal the Church.

They could do this; there’s nothing stopping them. But they won’t. None of them, from the Nuncio on down, even have the courage to say McCarrick’s name.

The haplessness of Baltimore 2018 comes as no surprise. We know perfectly well that, for now, the holy Catholic Church has a hierarchy made up of flimflamming, dithering cowards.

Maybe someday that will change.

In the meantime, we have the Lord, the Christ, the eternal Bridegroom. We belong to the Catholic Church because of Him. I am a priest because of Him. He will see His Church through.


10 thoughts on “USCCB 2002: A McCarrick Memory

  1. Yesterday, EWTN reported the voting nix coming from the Vatican and it is difficult to grasp the rationale. A growing call for the resignation of all Bishops seems to be in the wind.

  2. As a Protestant daughter of the Reformation, I ask my Catholic friends: Is this the worst crisis in the Roman Catholic Church since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century?

  3. The Vatican move in policy remedies surprised us all. Unless Pope Francis has a want to do something about this situation or give an outright statement invoking Mercy, the move is confusing. May the Holy Spirit guide us even when the path is not clear. I do not believe chaos will reign. Only forgiveness and hope can guide us.

  4. I was not aware of the “nixing” from the Vatican until I read Fr. Mark’s writings this morning, and it is discouraging news, to put it mildly. More and more I find myself with major questions about Pope Francis. When he became Pope, I, like much of the world, was pleased that someone who appeared to be an honest, down-to-earth priest was chosen to be Pope. Now the question arises as to whether he is simply naïve or has some other, ulterior motive.
    Despite all, I have absolute faith that the church will survive this latest crisis. I pray for the priests and those in the pews who are willing to speak up and voice their concerns. May we all have the courage to continue to let our voices be heard and our concerns made known.
    Judy R.

  5. Unfortunately Father Mark is correct. None of the Bishops have the fortitude to stand up to the Pope. I was going to use another reference, but it is unfit for mixed company. There is not a rug large enough to sweep this crap under, nor a broom equal to the task. Loss of faith in the leadership of the church, does not mean loss of one’s faith. Pope Francis has sown much confusion within the church from the very beginning of his Papacy. It will take some time for the church to recover.

  6. In total agreement with you, Father. But, I have to add while Di Nardo grimly read his opening statement informing the Bishops of Pope Francis’ order re: not voting, it was Cardinal Cupich who stood up and gladly agreed with the Pope. We all know about Cupich’s leaning and he is the one invited to speak in our diocese the month. Really? Unity? Cupich seems to be one of the Pope’s favorites and that’s a little too far left for me.

  7. With the dropping of Cardinal Cupich’s name… in September 2017 he invited Father James to speak after he wrote a new book about building bridges between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community. This seems to fit into the Pope’s agenda to normalize homosexuality into Catholic Doctrine and legitimize and decriminalize all homosexuality pactices that are ongoing in the Catholic Church by it’s priests.

  8. Father your last statement in the 11/13th/18 post is in fact what I rely on:
    “In the meantime, we have the Lord, the Christ, the eternal Bridegroom. We belong to the Catholic Church because of Him. I am a priest because of Him. He will see His Church through.”
    You Father are an example of what we must do and say – I so appreciate your honesty and care of your ‘sheep’ – of which I am glad to be one.
    In the 1st reading on Monday the 12th Titus 1:19- the 2nd paragraph – this should be sent to the Bishops.
    I thank you Father for being a guiding light for me. My prayers will remain daily & always for the Good Shepherds.

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