McCarrick Report: NJ Bishops Gave Vatican ‘Inaccurate’ Information Before McCarrick’s Washington Appointment

The report states that on three prior occasions transfers of McCarrick to other U.S. dioceses were stopped: to Chicago in 1997, to New York in 1999 and 2000, and to Washington in July 2000.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, speaks during a news conference with senators and national religious leaders to respond to attempts at vilifying refugees and to call on lawmakers to engage in policymaking and not 'fear-mongering' at the U.S. Capitol December 8, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, speaks during a news conference with senators and national religious leaders to respond to attempts at vilifying refugees and to call on lawmakers to engage in policymaking and not 'fear-mongering' at the U.S. Capitol December 8, 2015 in Washington, DC. (photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s Secretariat of State published Tuesday a report on Theodore McCarrick, saying that the Holy See had received inaccurate information about McCarrick from three New Jersey bishops before McCarrick’s 2001 appointment as archbishop of Washington.

Allegations about McCarrick had been sent to nuncio Montalvo in a letter on Oct. 28, 1999 by Cardinal John O’Connor, then the archbishop of New York, and subsequently shared with John Paul II, the report states.

In response to those allegations, at the request of John Paul II, separate but "substantively identical letters" were sent to Bishop Vincent Breen and Bishop Edward Hughes of Metuchen, and Bishop John Smith of Trenton on May 12, 2000, asking for the truth about McCarrick.

The bishops responded in writing, the report states. The report includes in full then-U.S. nuncio Arcbishop Gabriel Montalvo’s letter and the letters of the three New Jersey bishops.

The letter of Bishop Hughes, who succeeded McCarrick in Metuchen, told the Holy See that: "I have no factual information that would clearly indicate any moral weakness on the part of Archbishop McCarrick."

Bishop Hughes' letter dismissed the accounts of some priests who reported being molested or abused by McCarrick, even when, in one case, a psychologist affirmed that the priest had been McCarrick's victim. Bishop Hughes noted moral lapses on the part of the priests accusing McCarrick while dismissing their claims against the archbishop. In fact, the bishop's letter did not mention at all some incidents of sexual abuse or coercion that had been reported to him by Metuchen priests, according to the report.

Bishop Smith's letter told the nuncio that “I have never heard anyone make a substantiated accusation of immoral behavior against Archbishop McCarrick nor have I any evidence of ‘serious moral weakness shown by Archbishop McCarrick.’”

In fact, according to the report, Bishop Smith himself had in 1990 witnessed personally McCarrick groping the groin of a young cleric during a dinner with several officials from the Archdiocese of Newark. Bishop Smith's letter made no mention of that incident.

“Three of the four American bishops provided inaccurate and incomplete information to the Holy See regarding McCarrick’s sexual conduct with young adults,” the report concluded.

The misinformation presented to him was part of what may have informed Pope John Paul II’s decision to appoint McCarrick archbishop of Washington in November 2000, the report said.

The report states that on three prior occasions transfers of McCarrick to other U.S. dioceses were stopped: to Chicago in 1997, to New York in 1999 and 2000, and to Washington in July 2000.

The report says that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who called for Pope Francis to resign over his handling of McCarrick in 2018, failed in 2012 to follow instructions to investigate allegations against McCarrick.

According to the report, Archbishop Viganò wrote to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, in 2012, informing him of a lawsuit against McCarrick by a cleric identified in the report as "Priest 3." The report said that Cardinal Ouellet instructed Archbishop Viganò, who was then nuncio the U.S., to investigate whether the claim was credible but “did not take these steps.”

The report also touched on McCarrick's fundraising and habit of giving cash gifts to Church officials, which it said took place "over at least four decades."

It said: "Overall, the record appears to show that although McCarrick’s fundraising skills were weighed heavily, they were not determinative with respect to major decisions made relating to McCarrick, including his appointment to Washington in 2000. In addition, the examination did not reveal evidence that McCarrick’s customary gift-giving and donations impacted significant decisions made by the Holy See regarding McCarrick during any period."

The report portrays McCarrick as a cunning personality, adept at establishing contacts with influential political and religious leaders. It confirmed that he cultivated relations with teenage boys and young men, referring to them as his "nephews" and asking them to call him "Uncle." Some of the "nephews" would share a bed with McCarrick during trips and attend dinners at the bishop's residence in Metuchen, New Jersey, and later at his beach houses in New Jersey. Those nephews included seminarians who report being coerced and compelled to share a bed with McCarrick, and report incidents of touching, harassment, and sexual contact which by the former cardinal.

A footnote in the report discussed McCarrick's association with Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life since 2016. Cardinal Farrell lived with McCarrick from 2002 to 2006, when Cardinal Farrell was auxiliary bishop, vicar general, and moderator of the curian in the Washington archdiocese.

The footnote said: "In an interview, Cardinal Farrell stated that, during his time as Vicar General in the Archdiocese of Washington, he occasionally heard 'old rumors' about McCarrick having shared a bed with seminarians at a beach house when McCarrick was a bishop in New Jersey. Cardinal Farrell noted that the rumors were not about sexual activity and 'didn’t ever relate to minors.'"

"Cardinal Farrell only learned of the civil settlements involving McCarrick 'through the priest grapevine' in 2007 or 2008, after Farrell had already been installed as the Bishop of Dallas. Cardinal Farrell stated that it was 'an absolute shock' to learn in 2018 that there had been a credible allegation in New York that McCarrick had abused a minor."

"With respect to McCarrick’s conduct during the years he was Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Farrell stated he 'never saw or heard, ever, of any sharing of a bed, of any involvement with anybody, or anything of that nature, whether at the residence or elsewhere.' Cardinal Farrell said that he 'never suspected, or ever had reason to suspect, any inappropriate conduct by McCarrick in Washington.'”

In a July 2018 interview, Cardinal Farrell said he was "shocked" by revelations of abuse against McCarrick.

“I was shocked, overwhelmed; I never heard any of this before in the six years I was there with him,” he said.

McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958 and auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York in 1997. He became in 1981 Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, then Archbishop of Newark in 1986, and then in 2001 Archbishop of Washington, DC, where he retired in 2006.

He became a cardinal in 2001, but resigned from the College of Cardinals after it emerged in June 2018 that he had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting a minor. Allegations of serial sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests soon followed, and McCarrick was laicized in February 2019.

Pope Francis first announced an internal Vatican investigation into the career of McCarrick in October 2018.

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