The Catholic Church has obliterated its ability to inspire trust

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick listens during a news conference in Washington in this May 16, 2006, file photo.

by Elizabeth Bruenig

We live in an era of diminished trust and heightened cynicism. It is hard, now, to imagine someone expressing unqualified faith in government, the media, business — or even, for that matter, religious institutions. And the implication of this development is not simply the erosion of trust. It is the increasing difficulty of learning about the world around us, as we lose belief in those who might teach us.

Learning requires risk-taking. It forces us to face what we don’t know with the hope of advancing toward some grasp of it. The smaller the undertaking, the lower the emotional gamble — learning tomorrow’s weather forecast doesn’t entail an interior journey. But learning about the true and important things in life does require trust and dedication and vulnerability — usually under a teacher’s guidance. It is no surprise so many of us come to love the ones who teach us.

Neither is it a surprise, any longer, that some people charged with these roles of profound responsibility abuse them in the cruelest ways. The latest revelation concerns the former archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, who resigned Saturday from the College of Cardinals. Over several decades, McCarrick is alleged to have sexually abused at least one child and several adult seminarians or young priests, all of whom looked to the charismatic prelate for guidance — moral, vocational, spiritual. Into his den, he drew them.

McCarrick, who has denied the allegation involving the child, has now become the first prince of the church to resign his role since 1927 and the highest-ranking member of the Catholic hierarchy to step down amid sexual-abuse allegations. But there are others in the church who presumably knew of the charges against him decades ago and failed to act when given the chance. Two New Jersey dioceses where McCarrick served as a bishop paid settlements to young men who alleged abuse as recently as the early 2000s; it isn’t likely that $180,000 went missing from church coffers with only McCarrick’s knowing. In 2011, a priest from Brazil filed a lawsuit against McCarrick for unwanted sexual advances. The suit was withdrawn — but again, it seems unlikely the episode came and went unknown to anyone other than McCarrick.

The question of who in the church hierarchy learned of the allegations against McCarrick — and when — has thus spawned its own predictable controversy. Some Catholics have blamed the hierarchy’s lax attitude toward abuse claims on a modern, Pope Francis-inflected tolerance for gay priests and disregard for traditional church doctrine on sexual morality. Others counter that scapegoating gay priests who remain faithful and celibate is a dangerous and misplaced overreaction. The particular matter of who abetted McCarrick and how has taken on a dimension of doctrinal argument, subtly shifting into a debate about what the church ought to teach.

I am a faithful Catholic, and I worry that this discussion seems not only off-point but also ominously premature. What the church ought to teach makes sense to debate only if it is established that the church can teach at all. And it is precisely that capacity that McCarrick, along with his anonymous enablers and his legions of abusing predecessors, have all but destroyed. As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat observed, “the Catholic bishops are now somewhat protected from media scrutiny by virtue of their increasing unimportance.” The price of that protection is a conspicuous moral muteness: The light has gone under a bushel, and the salt has lost its flavor.

The church has described itself as “mater et magistra,” mother and teacher. Yet, having obliterated its ability to inspire trust, in large part through decades of abuse and abuse-enabling, the church has now been rendered unqualified, in the eyes of many, to serve in that role. As McCarrick allegedly transgressed and abused his position as a spiritual guide, so, too, can it be said that the church has forfeited, at least for now, its own teaching role.

Every effort ought to be made to restore this crucial function, which begins with rebuilding trust. And that requires accountability, which is painful. Francis has already mandated that McCarrick remain in penitent seclusion until the accusations against him can be examined at a canonical trial. This is a positive step, but the Vatican ought also to invite an independent inquiry into who aided McCarrick’s reported abuse, passively or otherwise, how and for how long.

The church should punish those found guilty and cooperate with law enforcement when needed.

The process will likely be ugly, but so much less so than what came before. It is not too much to ask not to be raped or otherwise sexually abused by shepherds of the faith in the course of following Christ. Neither is it too severe to say that if clerics cannot meet that meager demand, they can scarcely teach His people anything at all.

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After decades of silence, nuns talk about abuse by priests

Some nuns are now finding their voices, buoyed by the #MeToo movement and the growing recognition that adults can be victims of sexual abuse when there is an imbalance of power in a relationship. The sisters are going public in part because of years of inaction by church leaders, even after major studies on the problem in Africa were reported to the Vatican in the 1990s.

Revelations that a prominent U.S. cardinal sexually abused and harassed his adult seminarians have exposed an egregious abuse of power that has shocked Catholics on both sides of the Atlantic. But the Vatican has long been aware of its heterosexual equivalent — the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops — and done little to stop it, an Associated Press analysis has found.

An examination by the AP shows that cases of abused nuns have emerged in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, demonstrating that the problem is global and pervasive, thanks to the sisters’ second-class status in the church and their ingrained subservience to the men who run it.

Yet some nuns are now finding their voices, buoyed by the #MeToo movement and the growing recognition that even adults can be victims of sexual abuse when there is an imbalance of power in a relationship. The sisters are going public in part to denounce years of inaction by church leaders, even after major studies on the problem in Africa were reported to the Vatican in the 1990s.

“It opened a great wound inside of me,” one nun told the AP. “I pretended it didn’t happen.”

Wearing a full religious habit and clutching her rosary, the woman broke nearly two decades of silence to tell AP about the moment in 2000 when the priest to whom she was confessing her sins forced himself on her, mid-sacrament.

The assault — and a subsequent advance by a different priest a year later — led her to stop going to confession with any priest other than her spiritual father, who lives in a different country.

The extent of the abuse of nuns is unclear, at least outside the Vatican. However, this week, about half a dozen sisters in a small religious congregation in Chile went public on national television with their stories of abuse by priests and other nuns — and how their superiors did nothing to stop it.

A nun in India recently filed a formal police complaint accusing a bishop of rape, something that would have been unthinkable even a year ago. And cases in Africa have come up periodically; in 2013, for example, a well-known priest in Uganda wrote a letter to his superiors that mentioned “priests romantically involved with religious sisters” — for which he was promptly suspended from the church until he apologized in May.

“I am so sad that it took so long for this to come into the open, because there were reports long ago,” Karlijn Demasure, one of the church’s leading experts on clergy sexual abuse and abuse of power, told AP in an interview.

The Vatican declined to comment on what measures, if any, it has taken to assess the scope of the problem globally, or to punish offenders and care for victims. A Vatican official said it is up to local church leaders to sanction priests who sexually abuse sisters.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the issue, said the church has focused much of its attention on protecting children, but that vulnerable adults “deserve the same protection.”

“Consecrated women have to be encouraged to speak up when they are molested,” the official told AP. “Bishops have to be encouraged to take them seriously, and make sure the priests are punished if guilty.”

But being taken seriously is often the toughest obstacle for sisters who are sexually abused, said Demasure, until recently executive director of the church’s Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University, the church’s leading think tank on the issue.

“They (the priests) can always say ‘she wanted it,’” Demasure said.

Demasure said many priests in Africa, for example, struggle with traditional and cultural beliefs in the importance of having children. Novices are particularly vulnerable because they often need a letter from their parish priest to be accepted into certain religious congregations.

“And sometimes they have to pay for that,” she said.

And when these women become pregnant?

“Mainly, she has an abortion. Even more than once. And he pays for that. A religious sister has no money. A priest, yes,” she said.

There can also be a price for blowing the whistle.

In 2013, the Rev. Anthony Musaala in Kampala, Uganda, wrote a letter to members of the local Catholic establishment about “numerous cases” of alleged sex liaisons of priests, including with nuns. He was suspended until he issued an apology in May, even though Ugandan newspapers regularly report cases of priests caught in sex escapades.

Archbishop John Baptist Odama, leader of the Ugandan conference of bishops, told the AP that allegations against individual priests should not be used to smear the whole church.

“Individual cases must be treated as individual cases,” he said.

The reports in the 1990s were prepared by members of religious orders for top church officials. In 1994, the late Sr. Maura O’Donohue wrote about a six-year, 23-nation survey, in which she learned of 29 nuns who had been impregnated in a single congregation.

Nuns, she reported, were considered “safe” sexual partners for priests fearing infection with HIV from prostitutes or other women.

The reports were never meant to be made public, but the U.S. National Catholic Reporter put them online in 2001. To date, the Vatican hasn’t said what, if anything, it ever did with the information.

Complete Article HERE!

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick Resigns Amid Sexual Abuse Scandal

An investigation found credible evidence that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had sexually abused a teenager 47 years ago while serving as a priest in New York.

By Elisabetta Povoledo and Yonette Joseph

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington and prominent diplomat at the center of a mushrooming sexual abuse scandal dating back decades, has resigned, the Vatican announced on Saturday.

In a statement, the Vatican said: “Yesterday evening the Holy Father received the letter in which Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop emeritus of Washington (U.S.A.), presented his resignation as a member of the College of Cardinals.

“Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the cardinalate and has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry.”

The statement said the cardinal would remain in seclusion “for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.”

Cardinal McCarrick, a prominent Roman Catholic voice in international and public policy, was removed from public ministry on June 20, after an investigation found credible accusations that he had sexually abused a teenager 47 years ago while serving as a priest in New York.

Cardinal McCarrick, now 88, said in a statement at the time that he was innocent.

Subsequent interviews by The New York Times revealed that some in the church hierarchy had known for decades about accusations that he had preyed on several men who wanted to become priests, sexually harassing and touching them.

At least one man said he was abused by Cardinal McCarrick when he was a New Jersey bishop in the 1980s. The Times investigation discovered settlements amounting to tens of thousands of dollars over the years, paid to men who had made allegations of abuse against Father McCarrick, then a rising star in the Roman Catholic church.

Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals is the first since Father Louis Billot tendered his resignation in 1927 because of political tensions with the Holy See.

Keith Patrick O’Brien, a former archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, waived his rights as a cardinal in 2013, after accusations emerged of inappropriate sexual behavior with junior clergy. But he remained in the College of Cardinals until his death in March this year.

“The relevant point is that he is no longer a cardinal,” a Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, said on Saturday of Cardinal McCarrick.

In recent months, the pope has worked to address concerns that he had a blind spot when it came to child sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

After a Vatican envoy confirmed this year that the Roman Catholic church in Chile had for decades allowed sexual abuse to go unchecked, the pope apologized, met with victims and accepted the resignation of some bishops — after the country’s clerical hierarchy offered to quit in May.

On Monday, prosecutors in Chile said they were investigating 36 cases of sexual abuse against Catholic priests, bishops and lay persons.

In April, Cardinal George Pell of Australia, who as the Vatican’s finance chief is one of the Holy See’s highest officials, was ordered to stand trial on several charges of sexual abuse. In May, Philip Wilson, the archbishop of Adelaide, was convicted of covering up a claim of sexual abuse in the 1970s.

Victims and their advocates have long held that bishops have not been held accountable for hiding sexual abuse. With his conviction, Archbishop Wilson became the highest-ranking Catholic official in the world to be convicted of concealing abuse crimes.

Last month, Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, a former Vatican diplomat, was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison by a Vatican tribunal for possessing and distributing child pornography.

He will now face a canonical trial, which could lead to his removal from the priesthood. The trial was the first time in modern history that the Vatican’s own tribunal had handed down a sentence in a clerical abuse case.

Complete Article HERE!

The Catholic Church is enabling the sex abuse crisis by forcing gay priests to stay in the closet

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former D.C. archbishop, waves to fellow bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on September 23, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

by Robert Mickens

The Catholic Church is being rocked — again — by high-level sexual abuse scandals, with allegations in recent weeks surfacing in Chile, Honduras and the District, home to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a once-super-popular cleric who is facing accusations by five males of harassment or abuse.

And again, people say they are shocked and outraged, which shows how Catholics still refuse to see that there is an underlying issue to these cases. It is the fact that almost all of them concern males — whether they are adolescents, post-pubescent teens or young men.

And while no adult who is of sound psychosexual health habitually preys on those who are vulnerable, there is no denying that homosexuality is a key component to the clergy sex abuse (and now sexual harassment) crisis. With such a high percentage of priests with a homosexual orientation, this should not be surprising.

But let me be very clear: psychologically healthy gay men do not rape boys or force themselves on other men over whom they wield some measure of power or authority.

However, we are not talking about men who are psychosexually mature. And yet the bishops and officials at the Vatican refuse to acknowledge this. Rather, they are perpetuating the problem, and even making it worse, with policies that actually punish seminarians and priests who seek to deal openly, honestly and healthily with their sexual orientation.

McCarrick’s case made me think of that of the late Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who in 2013 was removed from ministry after the surfacing of reports that he’d harassed and been involved with seminarians. That year, cardinals picked a pope, and O’Brien stepped back – or was pulled back by higher-ups.

Something I wrote then comes to mind amid the McCarrick scandal: O’Brien should not have recused himself from voting in the pope-picking “conclave,” as “only a naif could believe that he is the only man among the electors who has broken his solemn promise to remain celibate,” I wrote in the March 9, 2013, edition of the Tablet. “There are likely others. And even those who’ve done worse,” I warned.

Our problem in the Church is of the abuse of power, an abuse that happens as a result of homophobia that keeps gay men in the closet, bars them from growing up and results in distorted sexuality for many gay priests. We need to address this elephant in the rectory parlor.

Had O’Brien attended the 2013 conclave, I believe he could have looked several of his red-robed confreres who have also “fallen below the standards” directly in the eyes.

This is not to justify his conduct, but rather to say that the hypocrisy must end.

Incredibly, there are still priests and bishops who would deny or profess not to know that there are any homosexually oriented men in the ordained ministry. O’Brien and many other priests and bishops who have engaged in sex with men would probably not even identify as gay. They are products of a clerical caste and a priestly formation system that discourages and, in some places, even forbids them from being honest about their homosexual orientation.

Sadly, many of these men are or have become self-loathing and homophobic. Some of them emerge as public moralizers and denouncers of homosexuality, especially of the evil perpetrated on society by the so-called gay lobby. Unfortunately, O’Brien was, at times, one of the more brazen among them.

The Vatican knows all too well that there are large numbers of priests and seminarians with a homosexual orientation. But rather than encourage a healthy discussion about how gays can commit themselves to celibate chastity in a wholesome way, the Church’s official policies and teachings drive such men even deeper into the closet.

And like any other dark place lacking sunlight and air, this prevents normal development and festers mold, dankness, distortion and disease. Nothing kept in the dark can become healthy or flourish.

As recently as 2005, just a few months after the election of Benedict XVI, the Vatican issued a document that reinforced the “stay in the closet” policy by saying men who identified as gay should not be admitted to seminaries.

In fact, one of the prime authors of that document — Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a priest-psychotherapist from Paris — was recently stripped of his priestly faculties after being credibly accused of abusing seminarians and other young men in his care.

And yet there are gay priests who have found a way to wholesome self-acceptance of their sexuality. Some of them are sexually active, but many live celibately. Arguably, they are among the best and most compassionate pastors we have in our Church.

Their more conflicted gay confreres — and all gay people, indeed the entire Church — would benefit greatly if these healthy gay priests could openly share their stories. But their bishops or religious superiors have forbidden them from writing or speaking publicly about this part of their lives.

This, too, only encourages more dishonesty and perpetuates a deeply flawed system that will continue to produce unhealthy priests.

O’Brien admitted he was sexually active with adults.

Some of the things O’Brien’s three accusers alleged he did to them (similar to some of the accusations against McCarrick) certainly fall under the category of sexual harassment. And because these alleged actions occurred with people in his charge when he was a seminary official or bishop, they constitute an abuse of power.

But this should not be confused with the sexual abuse of minors, which some people have deliberately tried to do.

That, by the way, is just another effort to refuse to deal with the issue of homosexuality and a clericalist, homophobic culture in the Church.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

Man Says Cardinal McCarrick, His ‘Uncle Ted,’ Sexually Abused Him for Years

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick was removed from ministry last month over a substantiated allegation that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old altar boy in 1971.

By Sharon Otterman

James was 11 years old when Father Theodore E. McCarrick came into his bedroom in Northern New Jersey, looking for the bathroom. Father McCarrick, then 39 and a rising star in the Roman Catholic church, was a close family friend, whom James and his six siblings called Uncle Teddy. James was changing out of his bathing suit to get ready for dinner.

“He said, turn around,” James, who is now 60, recalled in an interview last week. “And I really don’t want to, because I don’t want to show anybody anything.” But he did, he said, and was shocked when Father McCarrick dropped his pants, too. “See, we are the same,” James said he told him. “It’s O.K., we are the same.”

It was the beginning of a sexually abusive relationship that would last nearly 20 years, James said in the interview, the first time he has spoken publicly about the trauma. He asked that his last name be withheld to protect a sibling.

As the decades passed, Father McCarrick became Cardinal McCarrick, one of the most prominent public faces of the Catholic Church in America. He was suddenly removed from ministry last month over a substantiated allegation that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old altar boy in 1971.
The news changed James’s life. “I got down on my knees and I thanked God that I am not alone and it is going to be O.K.,” James said, through sobs, recalling the moment. “And I can tell somebody and someone is going to believe me.”

Interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times after Cardinal McCarrick’s removal showed that some in the church hierarchy had known for decades about allegations that he was sexually harassing and touching adult seminarians. On Monday, The Times reported that a former priest, Robert Ciolek, had received an $80,000 settlement in 2005, in part over allegations that Cardinal McCarrick, as a New Jersey bishop in the 1980s, had sexually harassed and inappropriately touched him. Another former seminarian received a $100,000 settlement for similar allegations in 2007.

But James’ allegations — that he was repeatedly sexually abused as a minor — are the most explosive yet to be leveled against the cardinal, who is now 88 and living in seclusion in the Washington, D.C., area. On Monday, James filed a police report detailing his accusations against the cardinal with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, where he lives.

Cardinal McCarrick, through a spokeswoman, Susan Gibbs, said on Wednesday that he had not been notified of the accusation, so he could not respond. But she said he was committed to following the process the church has put in place for abuse allegations.

James said he had tried to tell his father that he was being abused when he was 15 or 16. But Father McCarrick was so beloved by his family, he said, and considered so holy, that the idea was unfathomable.

James was baptized by Father McCarrick on June 15, 1958, two weeks after he was ordained as a priest, records from Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tenafly, N.J., show.

“He had chosen me to be his special boy,” James said in the phone interview, with his lawyer, Patrick Noaker, listening. “If I go back to my family, they tell me that it’s good for you to be with him. And if you go to try to tell somebody, they say ‘I think you are mistaken.’ So what you do is you clam up, and you stay inside your own little shoe box, and you don’t come out for 40 years.”

After James learned the cardinal had been removed, he began to tell his siblings what had happened to him. His sister Karen said in an interview that her brother had been particularly close to the young priest.

“It was explained to us how Jimmy was special to Father McCarrick, because of that very special thing that happened, that he was his first baptism,” Karen said.

The connection between Father McCarrick and James’s family was deep. The cardinal has talked in interviews about how his best high school friend was from a Swiss family, and how the two men spent a year in Switzerland after graduation. That friend was James’s uncle.

Karen, now 62, remembered that the young priest would bring her family marshmallow candies each Halloween and hard candy each Christmas.

A family photograph of Father McCarrick and James in the 1970s.

“I never thought about him other than Uncle Teddy,” she said. “He was equal to the other uncles, and very much a part of our lives.”

When the family moved to Hillsborough, Calif., in 1971, Father McCarrick visited repeatedly, James recalled. James had a difficult transition to his new home, and was struggling in school and getting into trouble. In 1972, James asked Father McCarrick to write him a recommendation to a boarding school. He did, James said.

By then, James said, Father McCarrick had begun abusing him sexually. When he was 13, he said, the priest first touched his penis. At 14, he said, Father McCarrick masturbated him in a beach parking lot. When he was 15, James said, Father McCarrick took him to a restaurant in San Francisco, the Tonga Room, and poured vodka in his drinks. He then brought him back to his hotel room and masturbated him and brought himself to orgasm, James said.

“I was absolutely disgusted, afraid,” James said. “I felt fear. What have I done?”

On visits to the East Coast, James, then 16 or 17, said he would go with other boys with Father McCarrick to a fishing camp in Eldred, N.Y., identical to the one described by adult seminarians who said McCarrick abused them there. On these visits, they would sleep together naked, James said, and Father McCarrick would touch him.

When James turned 18, he joined the Navy, and was stationed outside Chicago. When Father McCarrick, who became a bishop in 1977, was in town, he would call James to his hotel. When James was transferred to San Diego, Bishop McCarrick would invite him to the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles, James said.

“He introduced me to the most incredible people in the whole wide world,” James said, adding that the bishop introduced him as his nephew. “Bob Hope. I met the scarecrow from the ‘Wizard of Oz.’”

James described repeated sexual touching that always stopped short of intercourse. There was no kissing, no holding hands, which is also how the adult seminarians had described their alleged abuse. Like James, they said the bishop called himself “Uncle Ted” and them his “nephews.”
James left the Navy in 1980, he said, and moved back to the East Coast. He said he would sometimes stay overnight with Bishop McCarrick in the rectory in Metuchen, N.J., and later in Newark, after Bishop McCarrick was promoted to archbishop in 1986.

By then, James said he was drinking heavily and doing drugs, habits that began in his teenage years. He said he tried to dissociate himself from the archbishop in 1985, after meeting a woman he went on to marry.

The last time he visited Archbishop McCarrick, in 1989, he asked for money, he said; McCarrick refused, and never called him again. By then, James was 31.

Instead of feeling relief, James said, he spiraled downward. “I am done,” he said. “He has thrown me away.”

His marriage fell apart, and in 1991, he said, he attempted suicide. He landed in detox and has been sober since, he said.

Through his life, James said, he only told a few people that the priest had abused him. His younger brother. His uncle, Cardinal McCarrick’s former friend, now deceased, who advised him to take the secret to his grave. As James became sober, he also told his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor and a therapist, he said.

But now James wants to take action against Cardinal McCarrick, to give courage to others who might have been abused, and to find some justice for himself, he said.

His lawyer, Mr. Noaker, said that James’s police report will be forwarded to sex crimes investigators in San Francisco, New Jersey and possibly New York. He provided The Times with a copy of the report’s receipt, dated Monday. The statute of limitations on child sex abuse crimes may block criminal charges or civil lawsuits, but Mr. Noaker is hopeful. He will also seek compensation from the church.

James’s sister, Karen, said that she was horrified and surprised when he told her in late June that the cardinal had abused him. She recalled how she had attended Bishop McCarrick’s installation as archbishop of Washington in 2000 as part of his official entourage. “We were part of a superstar’s life,” she said.

But she said she believed James “100 percent.”

“My brother has had such a horrible life,” she said, “it just doesn’t make any sense, that his life would have been so different from his six siblings. Father Ted was supposed to fix this horrible boy, and he sure fixed him.”

Complete Article HERE!