Statement from Cardinal-designate Gregory
As Archbishop of Washington I naturally began reading the long and difficult report on the Vatican’s investigation of Theodore McCarrick with a keen personal interest in how our beleaguered Archdiocese would be portrayed. Almost immediately, though, as anxious as I had been to learn what might be revealed about this local Church I have come to love so much, I realized this was exactly the wrong approach.
In the end, this tragic chronicle is not primarily about individual dioceses. It is about unconscionable human violation and the pain that too many people endured at the hands of a deceitful man who only pretended to want what was best for them in order to get what he wanted for himself. Further, it is about leaders – Catholic leaders – who upon their ordination promised our Heavenly Father that they would always put His precious people first; yet, through failures of competence, communication and culture, they seem to have completely mismanaged what they came to know about this devious man.
The Vatican’s report demands to be viewed through the eyes of the survivors and their loved ones without prejudice to where they may have first encountered Theodore McCarrick or where they may be today. As has happened too often in recent history, it revealed to me and to you dark corners of our Church of which I am deeply ashamed and profoundly angry – again. It pushed into sunlight a culture that has too often served not to build up our cherished Catholic Church – Jesus Christ’s greatest Gift to us – but to undermine it, far beyond the amoral ecclesiastical tenure of a single fallen cleric. Those of us in leadership have too often failed to understand, to acknowledge, to respond to, and to prevent the damage done to our innocent faithful – minors and adults.
In the report there were mercifully no revelations of sexual abuse alleged to have been perpetrated in this Archdiocese, and while I am of course grateful for that, it provides little comfort. I promise you with all my heart that our vigilance in the Archdiocese of Washington will continue – we will support the healing of those who have been harmed, our protocols for reporting and responding to these crimes will continue unabated and with renewed vigor, our safe environment efforts on behalf of those of every age will reflect the very best practices available.
Even so, as I read the Vatican text I felt such deep sorrow for those who should have been able to rely on the ministers of Christ’s Church to protect and respect them. Instead they found themselves abused by a man who may have been outwardly charming and gregarious, but who allowed himself to be motivated by his own sinful gratification rather than the diametrically opposite Gospel call to go and make disciples for Jesus Christ. For a priest of His Church there can be no greater failing, except possibly to be aware of such incongruity and, in response, do nothing.
Persons who communicated anonymously about McCarrick’s behavior must have feared retribution from the structures and persons that shielded him. When harm is being done in the Name of the Holy Catholic Church, one must never again feel constrained to come forward and speak out. Pope Francis has already put into place procedures designed to uncover the truth in such cases of clerical and hierarchical wrongdoing.
The Church has taken a step forward, albeit much delayed, in looking honestly at both this particular case and at the future of ecclesial accountability. How large and how enduring a step remains to be proven to the countless people we have disappointed. There are challenges to our integrity that must be overcome before we can move forward, and yet paradoxically it seems we can’t move meaningfully forward until that integrity is restored. This will require time and transparency, contrition and commitment, prayer and reconciliation, authenticity and humility. I humbly beg for God’s Mercy for myself and for my brothers in the episcopacy. I implore our Heavenly Father to shower His Grace upon all whose faith has been tested too often by what we have done and what we have failed to do.
Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.