Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958 in the Archdiocese of New York. He was made an auxiliary bishop in 1977 and went on to become bishop of Metuchen, N.J., then archbishop of Newark, N.J., and finally archbishop of Washington D.C. He was made a cardinal in 2001 and retired a few years later. After his retirement, he remained active promoting social justice causes. More on his social justice work in a bit. First, we should take on the most recent news which revolves around his homosexual behavior.
McCarrick’s attraction to young men was well known in his dioceses. Apparently few, if any, knew of his alleged assault of a minor in 1971 and 1972, but his coercion of adult seminarians and young priests was well known. The Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark both knew of problems “decades ago,” but handled the allegations with confidential settlements instead of confronting the problem. Meanwhile, McCarrick continued to hold high and very influential positions in the Church hierarchy.
It goes without saying that a priest cannot have sex with men and faithfully carry out his vocation as a priest. Vows are an either/or arrangement. Either you are faithful to your vows, or you have failed your calling. While there are such things as repentance, renewal, and rehabilitation, and while God is merciful, he is also just. Without confrontation there is rarely repentance, and here there was apparently no confrontation. How can you call anyone to repentance when you have a log in your eye?
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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In a way, this reminds me of the Jerry Sandusky assaults while he was a football coach at Penn State. Sandusky preyed on much younger children, but the circumstances are similar. Both Sandusky and McCarrick were respected in their field, both had authority over their victims and, in both situations, people knew about the conduct and did little or nothing to put an end to it. Meanwhile, both men continued to find new victims. And recently we learned of the tactics of Harvey Weinstein. There should be absolutely no connection like this between a Catholic priest and men like Sandusky and Weinstein.
It also reminds me of sayings such as: “Silence is consent” and “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
There is also this: “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (John 3:19-21).
It is time for the Church to take a serious look at the “gay lobby” in the Vatican as well as in the United States. How can a man like Cardinal McCarrick rise to the highest level of the Church without someone raising a red flag? Actually, the better question is this: When someone raised a red flag about Cardinal McCarrick, such as Richard Sipe, how was McCarrick’s behavior even then kept hidden from the pope? I ask this because I am highly confident that Pope Benedict XVI either never received the letter or was assured that Sipe was a liar.
Is there a significant effort to protect, and likely enable, homosexual behavior by priests, reporters, theologians, and others who are part of the hierarchy of the Church in the U.S. and at the Vatican? If only we could find some evidence of this to prove that it is a problem.
Well, what do you know? Evidence may not be that difficult to locate. We have recently heard about some shocking arrests at the Vatican, which include Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, Msgr. Luigi Capozzi, and Msgr. Pietro Amenta. And now we have a prince of the Church, Cardinal McCarrick, credibly accused of molestation. Is it possible that there is a connection between these elevated titles and some really immoral behavior? Don’t get me wrong. I know there are many monsignors, cardinals, and others in the hierarchy who are truly holy and virtuous men and owed the highest respect, but how does a member of the clergy climb the ladder in the hierarchy while engaging in notorious violations of their vows?
The Vatican is not an enormous place. In fact, the Vatican covers little more than 100 acres and has a population of about 1,000 people while employing about 2,000. This is about as “small town” as a sovereign nation can be. If you ask anyone from a small town, they will immediately tell you that they know all their neighbors and all their neighbors know them. It is really hard to keep a secret in a small town. When three monsignors get arrested in a short period of time for really embarrassing things, people talk and share even more stories about others who should have been picked up, removed from their position, or laicized.
Instead, one of the most flamboyant advocates for the LGBTs, Fr. James Martin, S.J., is made a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications. And look who has landed a spot as the keynote speaker at the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Ireland. Will wonders never cease…?
Fr. Martin says he is building a bridge to people who live the LGBT lifestyle, so they can find a place in the Church. Funny. If he would look around, he would see plenty of active homosexuals who already feel perfectly at home in the Church. In fact, he regularly travels the country speaking at their gatherings. Sometimes he Skypes in to give them a pep talk and a pat on the back (the gratification is typically mutual). But Fr. Martin is no dummy. So why is he still claiming to build a bridge when there are superhighways already in use?
The U.S. Catholic Church is not a small town like the Vatican is. While the USCCB is a microcosm of the Church in the U.S., it would be much easier for a “gay lobby” to have a less visible presence in both the hierarchy and the broader Church in the U.S. than in the Vatican. This is probably why we do not see as many problems with homosexual activity by U.S. clergy as we have recently seen in the Vatican, although cases do continue to rise to public attention, such as the recent scandal in the Diocese of Saginaw.
I suspect that one of the main reasons the Church is in decline in the U.S. and in Western Europe, is probably due to the fact that too many in the clergy, including at least one retired American cardinal, are not keeping their vows of chastity and obedience. How can someone put their full heart into the mission of the Church when they cannot even put their full heart into their own vocation by keeping their vows?
Why we are being told that we should be much more concerned about the environment, gun violence, and those on the fringes of society? I think the reason for the “paradigm shift” is crystal clear. It is difficult to preach about chastity and virtue when you yourself are not successful in that department. Even Jesus said that we must take the log out of our own eye before we remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye (Matt. 7:5).
John 3:19-21, quoted above, talks about light and darkness, saying that evil prefers darkness and hates the light. This is true because evil is more visible in the light. However, there is another way to hide evil and that is to obscure it by dressing it up as social justice or to make it vague and blurry. Abortion is not a morally vague matter. Nor is marriage and family, euthanasia, or contraception. The Church in the U.S. could easily focus on these things, but we are being told to focus on immigration, poverty, gun violence, the environment and other issues. While these are all important, they are not nearly as clear-cut as abortion, contraception, marriage and family. Church leaders should know that public policy matters that involve prudential judgment are not as serious as moral absolutes not open to dispute among Catholics. The former should not eclipse the latter in importance.
We need ecclesiastical leaders who speak and act clearly and forcefully on moral matters, especially chastity and related virtues. This is not likely to happen, however, until members of the hierarchy are wholly committed to living the Gospel in their personal lives while insisting that all clergy under their authority do the same.
Editor’s note: Pictured above is Cardinal Theodore McCarrick arriving at the Vatican for a pre-Conclave meeting, March 5, 2013. (Photo credit: CNA / InterMirifica.net)