Susan Gibbs

How the mighty are fallen: Press should keep asking about 'Uncle Ted' McCarrick's secrets

How the mighty are fallen: Press should keep asking about 'Uncle Ted' McCarrick's secrets

The ongoing demolition of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick came to a head last weekend as the Vatican announced that he was being defrocked — an action that didn’t surprise anyone.

Big questions remain, of course. They are the same questions your GetReligionistas and lots of other people have been asking for months. Who promoted McCarrick? Who protected him, as reports about his private affairs circulated for years? And finally, who did McCarrick promote, in his role as a powerbroker in U.S. Catholic life?

Rocco Palmo, wizard of the Whispers in the Loggia blog had one of the better summations of what the issues are. Gone are the days, he wrote, when clergy sexual involvement with adults, ie the seminarians McCarrick preyed upon, were dismissed by the higher-ups.

“(Such) acts with adults are listed among the graviora delicta (grave crimes) warranting McCarrick's dismissal – specifically "with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power" – represents a massive sea-change in the church's handling of allegations beyond those involving minors, one which could well have significant ramifications going forward, both in Rome and at the local level.

With his laicization now imposed, McCarrick – a particular favorite of Popes John Paul II and Francis alike – loses all the titles, responsibilities and privileges of a priest and hierarch, except for one emergency role: namely, the faculty to absolve a person in imminent danger of death. As for his descriptor going forward, he should be referred to as "the dismissed cleric Theodore McCarrick," with the ranks or offices he once held only used after his name to reflect that they no longer apply.

Given his dismissal, it remains to be seen whether the now-former cleric will keep his residence at the Capuchin friary in Kansas where Francis ordered McCarrick to live in prayer and penance pending the outcome of Rome's investigation; as a result of today's decree, the onetime cardinal is no longer bound by obedience to his now-former superior.

That does bring up an interesting possibility; what if McCarrick decided to slip his bonds and walk away?

McCarrick’s hometown paper, the Washington Post, had quite the busy day on Feb. 16, producing a trifecta of pieces.

This story by the newspaper’s Rome bureau chief was first out of the gate:

The top part of the piece was mostly material we’ve heard before but further down was this note:

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Interviewing Cardinal Wuerl on McCarrick: Can't WTOP and others do better?

Interviewing Cardinal Wuerl on McCarrick: Can't WTOP and others do better?

The latest news in the Cardinal Theodore McCarrick scandal makes some reporters look particularly clueless.

 On Saturday, McCarrick became the first cardinal in history to resign from the College of Cardinals over the priestly sex abuse crisis, which means he no longer wears the red hat.

Obviously, a lot of scribes were pulled in their newsrooms on their days off to do the story or weekend reporters had to fill in. Crux's John Allen worded it the best

It’s really not that often one can say with certainty that we witnessed history being made at a specific moment, but Saturday brought such an occasion with a Vatican announcement that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals.

It’s an unprecedented move in the United States, the first time an American cardinal has ever renounced his red hat, and it’s the first time anywhere in the world has exited the college altogether facing accusations of sexual abuse. It is, therefore, the most tangible confirmation to date from Francis that when he says “zero tolerance,” he means everybody.

One of the weirder press reports came from WTOP, a Washington, D.C. news station.

Naturally, the outlet wanted some comment from the current head of the Washington archdiocese. What it got were bland quotes like this:

“I think this was a big step forward in trying to act quickly, decisively, even though the whole procedure isn’t concluded yet,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl who succeeded McCarrick as the Archbishop of Washington. “The pope is saying that we need to show that we are hearing these things, paying attention and acting.”

Oddly, I could not find any video of Wuerl’s remarks on WTOP’s site, so I could not tell if he answered all the questions he was asked or whether he dodged any.

“This decision highlights for me … that the pope takes very seriously the allegation of an abuse of a minor,” added Wuerl. He said both McCarrick’s resignation and the pope’s acceptance of it mean that “if we’re moving forward, these are signs of that progress.”

Wuerl said he has never been approached with allegations of abuse by McCarrick and was unaware of the rumors that have been associated with his predecessor.

What? Seriously?

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