Vatican Releases Long-Awaited ‘McCarrick Report’ Exonerating Pope Francis

Pope Francis gestures at the end of weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican on October 28, 2020. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)

ROME — The Vatican has released its 460-page report on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was found guilty of serial homosexual abuse in 2018 and subsequently stripped of the title of cardinal and reduced to the lay state.

The report contains significant archival data including numerous transcribed reports and written correspondence chronicling the history of accusations, denials, references, appointments, sanctions, and eventual punishment of the disgraced prelate.

Francis commissioned the investigation in 2018 following the publication of an 11-page exposé by the former Vatican nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. In his affidavit, the archbishop denounced an ongoing McCarrick cover-up, accusing Pope Francis of lifting sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict on the wayward cardinal and making McCarrick a trusted advisor.

Viganò claimed that shortly after Francis’ election to the papacy in 2013 he personally informed the new pope of McCarrick’s crimes and of Pope Benedict’s orders that McCarrick dedicate himself to “a life of prayer and penance,” refraining from celebrating Mass in public, and from participating in public meetings, giving lectures, or traveling.

In his affidavit, Viganò said it was clear that, “from the time of Pope Francis’s election, McCarrick, now free from all constraints, had felt free to travel continuously, to give lectures and interviews” and that “he had become the kingmaker for appointments in the Curia and the United States, and the most listened to advisor in the Vatican for relations with the Obama administration.”

The Associated Press (AP) notes that many of Vigano’s central assertions “were confirmed” in the Vatican report, “but not the ones involving Francis.”

The Vatican report says that no records “support Vigano’s account and evidence as to what he said [to the pope] is sharply disputed.”

The report suggests rather that Pope Francis basically continued to treat McCarrick the way Pope Benedict XVI had before him.

“Neither Pope Francis, nor Cardinal Parolin, nor Cardinal Ouellet lifted or modified the prior ‘indications’ related to McCarrick’s activities or residence,” the Vatican report declares. “McCarrick generally continued his religious, humanitarian and charitable work during this period, sometimes with renewed focus and energy, but also with increased difficulty due to his advanced age.”

“In the 2013 to 2017 period, McCarrick did not act as a diplomatic agent for the Holy See, or with any official mandate from the Secretariat of State,” it alleges.

This assertion seems difficult to square with the observations of seasoned Vatican watchers. In a key 2014 article for the Washington Post, veteran Vatican journalist David Gibson painted a very different picture, one in which then-Cardinal McCarrick would have indeed been rehabilitated by Pope Francis after years of relative inaction under Francis’ predecessor.

“McCarrick is one of a number of senior churchmen who were more or less put out to pasture during the eight-year pontificate of Benedict XVI,” Gibson wrote. “But now Francis is pope, and prelates like Cardinal Walter Kasper (another old friend of McCarrick’s) and McCarrick himself are back in the mix, and busier than ever.”

McCarrick “retired in 2006 and was sort of spinning his wheels under Benedict,” Gibson stated. “Then Francis was elected, and everything changed.”

“McCarrick travels regularly to the Middle East, and was in the Holy Land for Francis’ visit in May,” Gibson stated, adding that the pope “teased McCarrick again when he saw him.”

“Sometimes McCarrick’s travels abroad are at the behest of the Vatican, sometimes on behalf of Catholic Relief Services,” he declared.

Francis, “who has put the Vatican back on the geopolitical stage, knows that when he needs a savvy back channel operator he can turn to McCarrick, as he did for the Armenia trip,” Gibson wrote.

While filling in many holes and providing background on certain historic decisions regarding McCarrick’s rise through the ranks of the Catholic hierarchy, the new Vatican report leaves many questions unanswered regarding who benefitted from McCarrick’s successes, who abetted his misdeeds, and why he seemed to enjoy such favor in the Francis pontificate.

In his 2018 affidavit, Archbishop Viganò asserted that McCarrick enjoyed a “long friendship” with Cardinal Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, and had played an “important part” in Francis’ election, allegations that the new Vatican report neither confirms nor denies.


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