Pope Francis speaks out on fight against sexual abuse after report

(REUTERS/Max Rossi)Pope Francis leads the weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican January 18, 2017.

Pope Francis has renewed the Catholic Church’s pledge to uproot the scourge of a notorious sexual abuser after the Vatican released its extensive report on Theodore E. McCarrick.

Before concluding his weekly general audience Nov. 11, the pope made his first public statement on the release of the report regarding the “painful case” of the former cardinal, Catholic New Service reported.

“I renew my closeness to all victims of every form of abuse and the church’s commitment to eradicate this evil,” he said.

The Pope read his brief comment on the report, then bowed his head and closed his eyes in silent prayer.

The 460-page report was published by the Vatican Nov. 10, chronicling McCarrick’s rise through the church’s hierarchal ranks despite decades of accusations of sexual abuse and abuse of power and will conitue deep soul searching.

The report’s revelations that Pope John Paul II disregarded reports about ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct had Catholics debating the legacy of one of the modern church’s towering figures, The Washington Post reported.


The report prompted questions about whether John Paul was rushed through the saint-making process, and whether the author of contemporary Catholic teaching on human sexuality didn’t understand the complex nature of the topic.

John Paul, who died in 2005 and was made a saint in 2014.

He elevated McCarrick to archbishop of Washington and summarily to cardinal despite the allegations.

Under Pope Benedict, McCarrick was asked to step down as archbishop of Washington when he reached the standard retirement age of 75 and told to keep a lower profile.

Francis assumed his predecessors had already vetted the allegations against McCarrick, but took action once a credible accusation surfaced involving a minor.

McCarrick was laicized in 2019.

According to the report, the Vatican did not receive any documented complaints about McCarrick’s abuse of minors or seminarians until 2000, when Pope John Paul II was considering promoting McCarrick to be archbishop and then cardinal of Washington, D.C., America Magazine reported.

At that point, the Vatican received a series of complaints that were summarized in a letter from the archbishop of New York that was passed along to John Paul II.

There was an allegation that McCarrick had abused minors, but the Vatican ignored it because it was made anonymously.

They also received complaints about McCarrick abusing seminarians—which were ignored because they were made by a priest who himself had a record of sexual abuse, who was deemed unreliable.

Finally, there was a complaint about McCarrick sharing a bed with seminarians. John Paul II sent four New Jersey bishops to investigate that, and three came back with incomplete or misleading reports that led the then pope to think there was no evidence of sexual abuse.

Paul Moses a professor emeritus of journalism at Brooklyn College and a former reporter and editor at Newsday, wrote in an editorial for CNN.

“As a Catholic, I long ago uneasily made my peace with the knowledge that too many church leaders who preached a Christian message I regard as sacred may themselves be deeply flawed, deceitful or corrupt.

“The release Tuesday of a Vatican report filled with the sordid details of former Archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick’s rise and fall doesn’t so much tear at my faith as give hope that the Holy See is finally learning to come clean with the truth.”

He wrote, “This report should occasion a deep look at the culture where this can happen, an end to an ecclesial politics of resentment, and a new era of transparency. It’s not too much to hope for.”

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