Cardinal’s Former Secretary: Vatican Knew About McCarrick’s Misconduct
Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo of Newark published excerpts from private correspondence on his website.
VATICAN CITY — A former priest-secretary to Theodore McCarrick has issued a report that claims to contain excerpted quotes from correspondence between the disgraced former cardinal and various Church officials.
Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, published a website, “The Figueiredo Report,” May 28 which contains apparent excerpts from private correspondence between McCarrick, the priest and various other Church officials.
The quotes seem to contain admissions of wrongdoing from McCarrick, and to confirm subsequent reports about the Vatican’s response to the former cardinal’s behavior.
But some Vatican officials have said Msgr. Figueiredo’s report does not fully explain the ways in which McCarrick operated in the Vatican.
Neither the full text of the correspondence nor images of the letters have been published.
“I present facts from correspondence that I hold relevant to questions still surrounding McCarrick,” said Msgr. Figueiredo said in his report.
“These facts show clearly that high-ranking prelates likely had knowledge of McCarrick’s actions and of restrictions imposed upon him during the pontificate of Benedict XVI. They also clearly show that these restrictions were not enforced even before the pontificate of Francis,” his report claims.
“It is not my place to judge to what extent the fault lies with the failure to impose canonical penalties, instead of mere restrictions, at the start, or with other Church leaders who later failed to expose McCarrick’s behavior and the impropriety of his continued public activity, and indeed may have encouraged it,” the priest writes.
In one excerpt, apparently from a September 2008 letter from McCarrick to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, McCarrick wrote that “in one particular [case] I had been at fault in an unfortunate lack of judgment.”
“I have always considered my priests and seminarians as part of my family, and just as I have shared a bed with my cousins and uncles and other relatives without thinking of it being wrong, I had done this on occasion when the Diocesan Summer House was overcrowded. In no case were there minors involved, but men in their twenties and thirties.”
However, “I have never had sexual relations with anyone, man, woman or child, nor have I ever sought such acts,” McCarrick reportedly wrote to Cardinal Bertone.
The quotes excerpted by the monsignor, who was formerly attached to the Pontifical North American College in Rome as a spiritual director, appear to confirm claims by former apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, that in 2008 McCarrick was ordered to leave the archdiocesan seminary where he had been living.
Sources present at a 2008 meeting between then-nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi and McCarrick told CNA in August 2018 the former cardinal had been ordered out of that seminary.
According to Msgr. Figueiredo, McCarrick wrote in a letter to Archbishop Sambi after that meeting that “having studied the letter of Cardinal [Giovanni Battista] Re and having shared it with my Archbishop, I pledge again that I shall always try to be a good servant of the Church even if I do not understand its desires in my life. Of course, I am ready to accept the Holy Father’s will in my regard."
“I could find a place to live in one of the parishes of the Archdiocese of Washington. The Archbishop is willing to arrange for that in any area that the Holy See would desire,” McCarrick apparently added.
“In summary, in the future I will make no commitments to accept any public appearances or talks without the express permission of the Apostolic Nuncio or the Holy See itself.”
After leaving the seminary residence in early 2009, McCarrick moved into a specially renovated suite of rooms at the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle in Woodley Park, an upscale neighborhood in central Washington D.C.
In August, a priest resident in the parish in 2008-2009 told CNA that he been told McCarrick was “no longer allowed” to live in the seminary, and that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, had “ordered” the move, but he stressed that he did not have direct knowledge of those circumstances.
In August 2018, Msgr. Figueiredo made public statements in support of Archbishop Viganò.
“I know him personally,” Msgr. Figueuiredo said at the time. “I know him as a man of great integrity, honest to the core.”
The excerpts from Msgr. Figueiredo’s correspondence also appear to confirm reports that McCarrick played an ongoing, though sometimes unofficial, role in Vatican diplomatic efforts, especially in China, during the pontificates of both Benedict XVI and Francis.
However, sources at the Congregation for Bishops in Rome told CNA that Msgr. Figueiredo’s excerpts offer only “partial” context for McCarrick’s apparent ability to work around the imposition of restrictions on his ministry.
“McCarrick was very good at exploiting the left and right hands not speaking [to one another],”an official at the Congregation for Bishops said.
“[Cardinal] Re could tell [McCarrick] ‘No appearances, no living here,’ and then [McCarrick] would go to Bertone and present himself as being available for discreet use, ask to travel somewhere and use the conflicting instructions to slip through the cracks,” the official said.
Another official close to the Congregation said that McCarrick exploited a curial culture that resisted plain speaking.
“He would talk and write about needing to keep a low profile, about having to change residence, but never explicitly say why. Those that knew didn’t need it to be spelled out, those that didn’t but suspected were smart enough not to ask,” he explained.
The same official told CNA that piecing together McCarrick’s complex engagement with various curial office is part of an investigation now being undertaken by the Congregation for Bishops at the direction of Pope Francis.
“The man made a total mess of the communications with bishops, state, the Holy Father, the dioceses, everyone,” he said. “Anyone looking to check on him could find three different things in three different places.”
CNA has learned from senior sources in Rome that the Archdiocese of Washington has already completed a review of all of McCarrick’s personal correspondence and forwarded the results to Rome.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington declined to comment about that review.
The spokesman did tell CNA that “Cardinal Wuerl has previously stated — and he reiterates again — that he was not aware of any imposition of sanctions or restrictions related to any claim of abuse or inappropriate activity by Theodore McCarrick. Based on descriptions from [media report], none of the documents released today explicitly indicate that Cardinal Wuerl had any such knowledge.”
Msgr. Figueiredo, who served as priest-secretary to McCarrick for one year in the 1990s, previously described McCarrick as a “spiritual father.” He told CBS News that revelations about McCarrick had driven him to a relapse of alcoholism.
In October 2018, Msgr. Figueiredo was involved in a car accident outside of London, in which he hit another vehicle, driven by a pregnant woman. According to news reports, a visibly intoxicated Msgr. Figueiredo initially stopped after the accident, but then fled the scene. He was caught by police and tested at more than twice the legal limit of alcohol. He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and received an 18-month driving ban.
Msgr. Figueiredo was employed on a part-time basis by the EWTN News Vatican Bureau as a “Senior Contributor” beginning November 2017 and ending Oct. 27, 2018 following news reports of his guilty plea for drunken driving. CNA is a service of EWTN News.
Senior sources at the Archdiocese of Newark, where Msgr. Figueiredo is incardinated, told CNA that the priest was asked and then directed to return to the archdiocese following his road accident last year.
Despite repeated instructions to return to his home archdiocese, they told CNA, Msgr. Figueiredo has refused to do so, or to meet with his archbishop, Cardinal Joseph Tobin. He has remained in Rome without an ecclesiastical assignment, sources said.
“There has been contact between him and the cardinal, but it’s done little good,” one Newark source said.
According to a May 28 report from CBS News, Msgr. Figueiredo says he has now “embraced a life of sobriety” and claims to have been “trying for months” to share the correspondence with Church leaders, though the report does not specify the nature of those efforts, and makes no mention of his apparent resistance to meet with his own archbishop.
Beginning in November 2018, Msgr. Figueiredo approached CNA and other EWTN News media outlets to indicate possession of correspondence concerning McCarrick. The priest was unwilling to provide access to primary documents, offering only excerpts, and his overtures were declined.
On May 28, Crux reported that it had been given original copies of the correspondence in Msgr. Figueiredo’s report, and had them authenticated by “a cyber-security expert.”
While complete copies of the correspondence have not been released by Msgr. Figueiredo, the priest claims that he was inspired to release some information by Pope Francis.
“Pope Francis himself has asked all of the Church to be transparent” he said. “That’s the reason I feel a moral obligation to put out this correspondence.”