Pope pledges ‘thor­ough’ study of ar­chives

Vat­i­can ad­dresses res­ig­na­tion of U.S. car­di­nal ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - LIFE TRIBUTES - By Chico Har­lan WASH­ING­TON POST

ROME — Pope Fran­cis on Sat­ur­day pledged a “thor­ough” study of Vat­i­can ar­chives re­lated to dis­graced for­mer U.S. car­di­nal Theodore McCar­rick and said the church would even­tu­ally “make known the con­clu­sions.”

The Vat­i­can state­ment was the first in­di­ca­tion of how it plans to ad­dress one of its big­gest scan­dals: McCar­rick’s res­ig­na­tion from the Col­lege of Car­di­nals in July amid ac­cu­sa­tions that he sex­u­ally abused adults and mi­nors.

The 450-word state­ment, is­sued at the pope’s re­quest, did not ad­dress a sep­a­rate ma­jor ac­cu­sa­tion that has roiled the Catholic Church — the claim that Fran­cis was told five years ago about McCar­rick’s al­leged mis­con­duct with young men and did noth­ing about it.

Vat­i­can-led probe

In mak­ing that ac­cu­sa­tion against Fran­cis, the for­mer Vat­i­can am­bas­sador to the United States, Arch­bishop Carlo Maria Vi­ganò, also said other top fig­ures in the Vat­i­can — in­clud­ing Pope Bene­dict XVI — knew about McCar­rick years ear­lier.

“The Holy See is con­scious that, from the ex­am­i­na­tion of the facts and of the cir­cum­stances, it may emerge that choices were taken that would not be con­so­nant with a con­tem­po­rary ap­proach to such is­sues,” the Vat­i­can state­ment said.

Fran­cis and the wider Ro­man Catholic Church have sus­tained sig­nif­i­cant rep­u­ta­tional dam­age both from an on­slaught of abuse cases around the world and from their strug­gle to deal trans­par­ently with the fall­out. Vat­i­can lead­ers have been largely silent in the af­ter­math of the Vi­ganò ac­cu­sa­tions, and Fran­cis has de­clined to ad­dress ques­tions about what he knew.

The head of the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops, Car­di­nal Daniel DiNardo, has asked for a spe­cial Vat­i­can-led probe — a so-called “apos­tolic vis­i­ta­tion” — into McCar­rick’s rise and whether fig­ures within the church hi­er­ar­chy knew of his be­hav­ior. But the Vat­i­can has so far de­clined to or­der such a probe, one of its most pow­er­ful tools, which it used re­cently in Chile to in­ves­ti­gate sys­temic abuse and coverup.

DiNardo, who this week de­clined an in­ter­view re­quest, is sched­uled to meet with Fran­cis Mon­day.

The Vat­i­can on Sat­ur­day de­scribed a dif­fer­ent kind of in­ves­ti­ga­tion into McCar­rick, one that will in­volve in­for­ma­tion gath­er­ing from doc­u­ments in Vat­i­can of­fices. The goal, the Vat­i­can said, is to “as­cer­tain all the rel­e­vant facts, to place them in their his­tor­i­cal con­text and to eval­u­ate them ob­jec­tively.”

The Vat­i­can said that its own work would be com­bined with ear­lier ef­forts car­ried out by the Arch­dio­cese of New York, which had no­ti­fied the Holy See in Septem­ber 2017 about an abuse al­le­ga­tion against McCar­rick from the 1970s. Fran­cis or­dered the arch­dio­cese to in­ves­ti­gate, the Vat­i­can state­ment said, and in the mean­time “grave in­di­ca­tions emerged” about McCar­rick.

In July, the 88-year-old prelate be­came the first car­di­nal in his­tory to fully re­sign his po­si­tion be­cause of abuse al­le­ga­tions.

In 2015, Car­di­nal Keith O’Brien, from Scot­land, re­nounced the rights and priv­i­leges of his po­si­tion af­ter a string of ac­cu­sa­tions in about sex­ual mis­con­duct, but he did not of­fi­cially de­part the Col­lege of Car­di­nals.

Church’s cred­i­bil­ity

The Holy See’s lat­est state­ment comes amid a month­long meet­ing at the Vat­i­can — one that in­cludes Fran­cis and top bish­ops from around the world — on the topic of youth within the church.

Some bish­ops, speak­ing dur­ing the first days of the event, have said the church’s cred­i­bil­ity de­pends on a strong re­sponse to abuse cases that span from Aus­tralia to Ger­many to the United States. Fran­cis has also called a sep­a­rate sum­mit of bish­ops for Fe­bru­ary, specif­i­cally to dis­cuss cler­i­cal sex abuse and the pro­tec­tion of chil­dren.

Mean­time, Fran­cis’ pop­u­lar­ity has plunged in the United States. Ac­cord­ing to a Pew Re­search Cen­ter sur­vey con­ducted in Septem­ber, only 30 per­cent of Amer­i­can Catholics hold a very fa­vor­able view of the pon­tiff, com­pared with 62 per­cent three years ear­lier.

“I think peo­ple need to know that they take this se­ri­ously and that it won’t hap­pen again,” said John Carr, the di­rec­tor of the Ini­tia­tive on Catholic So­cial Thought and Pub­lic Life at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity. “We have to find out what hap­pened. It wasn’t right.”

The Vat­i­can held a month­long sum­mit to ad­dress the topic of youth within the church and plans on host­ing an­other for bish­ops to dis­cuss cler­i­cal sex­ual abuse and the pro­tec­tion of chil­dren. Tiziana Fabi / AFP / Getty Images

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