The sexual abuse allegations surrounding now-former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick have prompted some Church figures to urge a thorough reckoning of the U.S. Church’s clerical sexual abuse policies.
“We can—and I am confident that we will—strengthen the rules and regulations and sanctions against any trying to fly under the radar or to ‘get away with’ such evil and destructive behaviors,” said Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany in a July 27 letter to clergy in his diocese. “But, at its heart, this…is a profoundly spiritual crisis.
“In negative terms, and as clearly and directly as I can repeat our Church teaching, it is a grave sin to be ‘sexually active’ outside of a real marriage covenant. A cardinal is not excused from what a layperson or another member of the clergy is not,” Bishop Scharfenberger said.
He added, “Abuse of authority—in this case, with strong sexual overtones—with vulnerable persons is hardly less reprehensible than the sexual abuse of minors, which the USCCB (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) attempted to address in 2002. Unfortunately, at that time—something I never understood—the ‘Charter’ (‘for the Protection of Children and Young People’) did not go far enough so as to hold cardinals, archbishops and bishops equally, if not more, accountable than priests and deacons.”
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said allegations against Archbishop McCarrick “have shaken our Church to its core.”
“That we find ourselves in this place again is tragic and heart wrenching—for the victims; for their families and friends; for all Catholics; and for our neighbors whom we are called to serve in truth and love,” he said July 30.
He said he strongly supports Pope Francis’ response to Archbishop McCarrick’s case and other recent cases, including accepting the resignation of several Chilean bishops, and praised the pope’s “determination to hold accountable all those who have sexually abused others or failed to report allegations of sexual abuse, regardless of their position or rank in the Church.”
Building on those efforts “to strengthen the accountability of bishops,” Archbishop Lori said, “some bishops in the United States are discussing proposals to do the same, (including) measures that can be implemented in each diocese to ensure that victims can easily report allegations of abuse by any member of the Church, including bishops, and can confidently expect that those allegations will get a full and fair hearing.”
“I will contribute actively to those discussions and will fully implement their results in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to best protect those in our local Catholic community and all those we serve,” Archbishop Lori said.
John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, said, “As a father, I am appalled and angry. As a Catholic, I feel ashamed and betrayed.” Carr worked with Archbishop McCarrick on policy initiatives at USCCB headquarters in Washington. “As a friend of former Cardinal McCarrick, I am devastated, especially for the victims and their families,” he said. “I pray that these horrific developments can help end this evil of clerical sex abuse and dismantle the culture that permitted it within our family of faith.” —CNS