By Ed Condon
The Archdiocese of Washington has declined to confirm new details about the post-retirement living arrangements of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and maintained that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Washington’s archbishop, was unaware of alleged Vatican sanctions against McCarrick.
Archbishop Carlo Vigano, former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., claimed in an Aug. 25 statement that McCarrick was directed by the Vatican in 2009 or 2010 to discontinue living in a seminary, among other restrictions.
Vigano wrote that in 2009 or 2010 “Pope Benedict had imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis: the cardinal was to leave the seminary where he was living, he was forbidden to celebrate [Mass] in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance.”
The archbishop said that McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington, was at that time known by the Vatican to have committed acts of sexual immorality involving seminarians and priests.
On Aug. 25, the same day as the release of Viganò’s statement, a spokesman for Wuerl told CNA that “Cardinal Wuerl did not receive documentation or information from the Holy See specific to Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior or any of the prohibitions on his life and ministry suggested by Archbishop Vigano.”
Viganò wrote that Pope Benedict’s sanctions explicitly included an order to “leave the seminary where he was living.” At the time, McCarrick was a resident at the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Seminary in the Archdiocese of Washington, where he had a self-contained apartment.
Two sources present at a 2008 meeting between McCarrick and Sambi told CNA that the nuncio instructed McCarrick to leave the seminary at that time. According to those sources, Sambi told McCarrick his departure was the direct instruction of Pope Benedict XVI. They stressed to CNA that they were unaware of any knowledge Cardinal Wuerl may have had of Sambi’s instructions.
McCarrick did make plans to leave the seminary at the end of 2008. His next home was the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle in Woodley Park, an upscale neighborhood in central Washington D.C.
One of the four priests resident in the rectory of St. Thomas’ parish in 2008-2009 recalls being told in December of 2008 that he would have to move out of his rooms in the parish to accommodate a “mystery VIP.”
“It was all very sudden,” he told CNA. “I was moved around but given another room in the rectory.” The priest told CNA he was informed by the pastor of the parish that it was McCarrick moving in, and that his arrival caused considerable upheaval.
“There was significant construction to create his suite, which took over two prior suites and two full baths, as well as the single guest room next to me which was converted into a private chapel for McCarrick’s exclusive use.”
The construction apparently continued during the first two months of 2009, with McCarrick moving in either late February or early March.
Despite the preparations and expenditures being made for McCarrick’s arrival, Ed McFadden, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA on Aug. 27 that “Archbishop McCarrick typically made his own housing arrangements and did not directly involve the Archdiocese of Washington.”
Archdiocesan policy requires that any expenditure by a parish of more than $25,000 have the explicit approval of either the archbishop or the Moderator of the Curia. When asked directly about the construction at St. Thomas, the Archdiocese of Washington refused to comment on who had approved or funded the renovations.
The priest-resident of St. Thomas told CNA that he been told that McCarrick was “no longer allowed” to live in the seminary, and that Cardinal Wuerl had “ordered” the move, but he stressed that he did not have direct knowledge of those circumstances.
Fr. Rory McKee, pastor of St. Thomas in 2009, declined to comment, and directed enquiries to the archdiocesan communications office.
Despite repeated requests, the Archdiocese of Washington declined to confirm when McCarrick moved into St. Thomas, or when he left.
CNA previously reported that McCarrick next lived alongside a house of priestly formation belonging to the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) on the property of St. John Baptist de la Salle is located in Chillum, Md.
Sources told CNA that the cardinal likely moved to the property in the summer of 2010, though the Archdiocese of Washington declined to comment.
McCarrick is reported to have had, for a time, an IVE brother in formation living in his residence, which was on the parish property but separate from the house of formation. At least two members of the IVE served as assistants to McCarrick between 2014 and 2018.
In July, the Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that McCarrick “made his own living arrangements for his retirement,” and declined to comment on his residence at the John Baptist de la Salle property.
On June 20, the Archdiocese of New York reported that it had found credible an allegation that McCarrick committed acts of child sexual abuse. Wuerl wrote at the time that he was “saddened and shocked” by the allegation.
On the same day, Cardinal Joseph Tobin confirmed that the McCarrick’s former dioceses of Newark and Metuchen had reached settlements with adults who said McCarrick had engaged in sexual misconduct. In response, Wuerl specifically denied that he had been told of several out-of-court settlements made on McCarrick’s behalf by his former dioceses of Metuchen and Newark.
On Aug. 14, a report by a Pennsylvania grand jury investigating clerical sexual abuse mentioned Wuerl, previously the Bishop of Pittsburgh, more than 200 times. Defending himself against charges of mishandling priests who had been accused of child sexual abuse, Wuerl reported in at least one case being uninformed about the scope of allegations against a priest whom he permitted to minister in the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas.
Wuerl has faced mounting pressure and calls for his resignation. Those close to Cardinal Wuerl insist that he has not asked the pope to accept his letter of resignation. Wuerl is said to be planning to attend the November plenary meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference, which is expected to focus on the fallout of the McCarrick and Pennsylvania scandals.