Ex-Cardinal McCarrick: ‘I’m Not as Bad as They Paint Me’

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired Archbishop of Washington, announced he was stepping down from the ministry Wednesday amid allegations of sexual abuse. File photo by Patrick D. McDermott/UPI
Patrick D. McDermott/UPI

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick continues to maintain his innocence in the first interview he has given since being sentenced by the Vatican last July to a life of “prayer and penance.”

Ruth Graham traveled to Victoria, Kansas, in August to interview McCarrick, who was subsequently found guilty of sexual abuse by a Vatican tribunal and reduced to the lay state last February. In the interview, published Tuesday in Slate, McCarrick suggests he was taken down under trumped-up charges by powerful enemies.

Asked whether the different accusations of homosexual abuse were true, McCarrick denied them, employing a curious turn of phrase.

“I’m not as bad as they paint me,” he said. “I do not believe that I did the things that they accused me of.”

The denial was reminiscent of an earlier statement released by the cardinal in June 2018.

“While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence,” his statement said at the time, “I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.”

Asked by Ms. Graham whether saying he didn’t “believe” he had done those things left the question of his guilt as an open question, he said it did not.

McCarrick wanted to comment specifically on accusations by James Grein that McCarrick had repeatedly abused him over many years beginning when Grein was a boy of 11, including having groped Grein while hearing his confession.

“The thing about the confession, it’s a horrible thing,” he said. “I was a priest for 60 years, and I would never have done anything like that. … That was horrible, to take the holy sacrament and to make it a sinful thing.”

Asked about allegations from former seminarians that McCarrick had invited them to his New Jersey beach house, always choosing one of them to sleep in a double bed with him, McCarrick said that his “enemies” had put the accusers up to this.

“I think that they were encouraged to do that,” McCarrick said. “There were many who were in that situation who never had any problems like that.”

Vatican whistleblower Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former Vatican nuncio to the United States, released a bombshell report in late August 2018 claiming that Pope Francis was well aware of McCarrick’s misdeeds but had rehabilitated him to a position of influence in the Vatican.

In his report, Viganò said that many in the Church were aware that McCarrick was an abuser.

“He was talking as a representative of the far right, I think,” McCarrick said of Viganò. “I don’t want to say he’s a liar, but I think some of the bishops have said that he was not telling the truth.”

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