By Kevin Jones
One year after credible allegations of sex abuse of a minor led to his public disgrace, the 88-year-old Theodore McCarrick is no longer a cardinal of the Catholic Church, no longer an archbishop, and no longer a cleric. He continues to reside at a Franciscan friary in Kansas, perhaps indefinitely.
“Mr. McCarrick continues to reside at St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, Kansas. He is in poor health and remains under a supervision plan,” Father Joseph Mary Elder, O.F.M. Cap., communications director for the Capuchin Franciscans’ Province of St. Conrad, told CNA June 18.
“At this point, the length of his stay is indeterminate, but he is looking for lodgings closer to his family. There is no timetable for when or if that might happen,” said Elder.
“Mr. McCarrick follows the everyday life and routine of a friar with the exception of public ministry; he lives in the same type of room as the friars, joins in the community prayers and the celebration of the Mass, and participates in community meals and interactions,” he continued.
McCarrick will turn 89 years old on July 7. He has been at the friary since September 2018, when then-Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl asked Bishop Gerald L. Vincke of Salina, Kansas and Father Christopher Popravak, the Denver-based Capuchin provincial, to make arrangements to house McCarrick.
“Regarding payment for his lodgings, the Archdiocese of Washington was paying room and board for him until the time of his laicization,” said Elder. “While Mr. McCarrick has offered to pay out of pocket, the Capuchins have declined the offer.”
In January 2019 he was removed from the clerical state, one of the most extreme sanctions for a clergyman, and which deprives him of the right to financial support normally guaranteed to clerics under church law. Without this punishment, McCarrick’s former archdiocese would still be required to support him financially.
The decision to host McCarrick in the Salina diocese was not taken lightly, Vincke said in a Sept. 13, 2018 letter to the diocese’s faithful.
Vincke, who had only taken office in August 2018, said he believes in both justice and mercy. In saying “yes” to hosting McCarrick, he said, “I had to reconcile my own feelings of disappointment, anger and even resentment toward Archbishop McCarrick,” he explained, stressing reliance upon Jesus Christ for guidance, mercy and forgiveness.
Vincke said he was “deeply sorry” for all victims of abuse, adding “This purification of the Church by God is painful, but much needed. We need the eyes of faith as we suffer through this.”
The Salina diocese did not provide additional comment in response to inquiries. McCarrick’s civil attorney, Barry Coburn of the Washington, D.C.-based firm Coburn & Greenbaum, on June 18 confirmed that he is still the ex-cardinal’s attorney but declined further comment.
In February, sources close to the former cardinal told CNA that he has private means of support in place. While McCarrick reportedly did not draw a salary or a pension from any of the three dioceses he led, he does have a private income from savings and monthly annuities.
“While he is not without resources, they are modest, in keeping with what one might expect of a parish priest,” a source close to McCarrick said.
One source speculated that the annuities could have come from “friends or benefactors” of the archbishop before his fall from grace.
McCarrick was well-known for giving envelopes of money to different bishops and cardinals, ostensibly to thank them for their work. Such practices have come under scrutiny as a possible source of corruption and unwarranted influence.
McCarrick was a co-founder and the longtime head of the Papal Foundation, which since 1990 has given over $100 million to support projects and proposals recommended by the Holy See. After a 2018 controversy over a $25 million grant from the foundation to a legally and financially troubled Italian hospital, questions have been raised about whether McCarrick attempted to use foundation influence and assets to forestall investigations against him.
As CNA reported in August 2018, McCarrick sat on the boards of two family foundations which helped funnel $500,000 to his personal archbishop’s fund over about a decade’s time.
McCarrick was a paid consultant for Thomas Donohue, president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Wall Street Journal reported June 6. Over the period 2011 to early 2018, Donohue paid him over $200,000 for advice on global development and other matters.
The day McCarrick was first accused of sexual misconduct, he contacted Donohue for help returning to Washington from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Donohue dispatched a private jet and later compensated the Chamber more than $23,000 for the flight.
The Chamber of Commerce spends the most on lobbying of any interest group in Washington. Donohue is also president of the board of the Chamber’s affiliate the Center for International Private Enterprise, which is part of the globally influential U.S. nonprofit the National Endowment for Democracy.
One year ago, on June 20, 2018, the Archdiocese of New York announced that its investigation found “credible and substantiated” allegations that McCarrick had committed sexual abuse of a teenager. It also came to light that the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen had previously reached out-of-court settlements with several adult men who alleged they were sexually abused by McCarrick during their time as seminarians.
In July 2018 McCarrick was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by Pope Francis pending the completion of a canonical process against him. That same day, the pope accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals.
That July another victim, James Grein of Virginia came forward to say McCarrick had begun sexually abusing him in 1969, when Grein was 11 and McCarrick was a 39-year-old priest. Some of the abuse took place in the context of the sacrament of reconciliation, further compounding McCarrick’s offenses. McCarrick was reportedly a friend to Grein’s Swiss-American family and Grein was the first baby he baptized as a priest, the New York Times reported.
Grein has said his family provided early financial support for McCarrick and trips to Switzerland with family members, which could have provided a key boost to McCarrick’s ability to network internationally and to rise in the Church.
While McCarrick’s fall shocked many, some said they had long heard rumors of questionable behavior towards adult seminarians. McCarrick’s fall brought scrutiny for U.S. bishops who had served under him, with many denying they knew of any misbehavior.
Pope Francis himself has faced questions. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former apostolic nuncio to the U.S., has charged that Pope Francis knew of sanctions placed on McCarrick. He said that McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct had been known to some Vatican officials for years, eventually leading to a restriction on the archbishop’s ministry by Pope Benedict XVI in the late 2000s, and a subsequent restoration of McCarrick’s place as a papal advisor by Pope Francis.
Since the charges first emerged, Pope Francis has maintained that he will not respond to the content of the Vigano letters, and instead has encouraged journalists to investigate their allegations. Some aspects of the former nuncio’s testimonial seem to have been verified, while other aspects remain controversial or unproven, and some have proven to have been exaggerated, overstated, or unlikely.
Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark and a former secretary to McCarrick, last month released apparent excerpts from private correspondence between McCarrick, the priest, and various other Church officials. In his view, these show high-ranking Vatican churchmen “likely had knowledge of McCarrick’s actions and of restrictions imposed upon him during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.”
The excerpts 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 Figueiredo’s report did not fully explain the ways in which McCarrick operated in the Vatican. They painted a picture of a man expert at exploiting a curial culture and creating an appearance of conflicting instructions that allowed him to justify his travels.
The excerpts from 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.
McCarrick’s long career began, perhaps, with his ordination as a priest by the deeply influential Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York. He later served as an auxiliary bishop of New York before becoming Bishop of Metuchen, Archbishop of Newark and then Archbishop of Washington.
McCarrick’s career included time as a university leader and service on diplomatic missions and advisory roles for both the U.S. State Department and the Holy See. He has served on pontifical councils for Promoting Christian Unity, Justice and Peace, Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and for Latin America. Similarly, he served in the office of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See and as chair of multiple U.S. bishops’ conference committees.