Call for three cardinals to be removed from World Meeting of Families line-up

Survivors claim each has questions to answer about known clerical child abusers

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, from Drimnagh in Dublin, speaking in 2017 at the Dublin conference – hosted by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin – in preparation for this month’s World Meeting of Families.

By Patsy McGarry

A group representing clerical child sex survivors worldwide has written an open letter to Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin seeking the removal of three cardinals from World Meeting of Families (WMOF) events in Dublin later this month.

Archbishop Martin is chairing the WMOF board.

Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) represents survivors in 15 countries and aims to hold the Vatican to account over clerical abuse of minors.

It says the three cardinals – Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life which has overall responsibility for the World Meeting of Families, Cardinal Óscar Maradiaga of Honduras and a member of Pope Francis’s Council of Cardinals, and Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl should be “investigated, not honoured”.

The organisation claims they have covered up for clergy who abused minors, something denied by the three cardinals

“Any bishop who covers up for another bishop should not be trusted to safeguard Catholic families, much less preach to the world about the sacred and intrinsic dignity and meaning of family life. We are deeply troubled that three cardinals who may have protected abusive brother bishops are playing significant roles at the World Meeting of Families,” it said.

Sexually abused minors

They noted how recently former US cardinal Theodore McCarrick in the US was removed from ministry following accusations that he had sexually abused minors as well as seminarians and young priests.

Cardinal Wuerl succeeded McCarrick as Archbishop of Washington in 2006 “around the time New Jersey dioceses were settling with McCarrick’s victims.”

Last month it emerged that Cardinal Maradiaga’s close associate and auxiliary bishop in Honduras, Bishop Juan Jose Pineda, was removed because of sexually abusing seminarians.

Cardinal Farrell was consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of Washington in 2002 by then Archbishop McCarrick and served as vicar general.

“I was shocked, overwhelmed; I never heard any of this before in the six years I was there with him,” Cardinal Farrell said last month, referring to former Cardinal McCarrick and the allegations against him. He had “no indication, none whatsoever”.

From Drimnagh in Dublin, Cardinal Farrell and his brother Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Vatican’s Council for Promoting Christian Unity, began their clerical careers as members of the controversial Legionaries of Christ.

Bishop Farrell remains a member while Cardinal Farrell left them in 1981.

Serial sex abuser

Legionaries of Christ founder Fr Marcial Maciel, who died in 2008, was exposed as a serial sex abuser of boys and young men and father of six children by multiple women and was removed from ministry in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.

In 2016, when asked by The Irish Times what he had known about Fr Maciel’s activities as a sexual predator, Cardinal Farrell said: “I never knew anything back then. I worked in Monterrey, and maybe I would have met Maciel once or twice, but I never suspected anything . . . I left the Legionaries because I had intellectual differences with them.”

The survivors want the pope to acknowledge and meet publicly with survivor leaders of Ireland during his visit and to announce that the next WMOF will be dedicated to the impact and prevention of sexual violence, particularly clergy sexual violence, on families.

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