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After years of waiting, Vatican to release the report on former cardinal McCarrick

McCarrick is pictured in a 2013 photo at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)


The U.S. bishops’ upcoming fall general assembly will be overshadowed by the presence of a man who won’t be there — former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. On Tuesday, less than a week before the Nov. 16-17 meeting, the Vatican plans to release a long-awaited report that is expected to shed light on McCarrick’s rise to the top levels of the Church hierarchy.

The report will detail findings of a Vatican investigation that began more than two years ago in response to disclosures that the then-cardinal was guilty of sex abuse. Removed from the office of cardinal and laicized, he is now 90 and living in seclusion.

The report, which is said to be hundreds of pages long, is scheduled for release at 8 a.m. EST. Although the advance agenda for American bishops assembly makes no mention of it — and most bishops presumably will not have seen it at the time of their meeting — it is hard to imagine that its findings will not come up in some form, whether publicly or privately.

Unlike most the fall assemblies of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which take place in person in Baltimore, this year’s will be conducted in virtual format because of the coronavirus pandemic. Livestreamed plenary sessions open to media and the public will take place Nov. 16 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST, followed by a news conference, and Tuesday, Nov. 17 from 1 p.m. to approximately 3 p.m. The public portion of the meetings will be streamed at the USCCB website.

During the meeting, the winners of mail elections for eight USCCB committee chairmanships will be announced. There also will be addresses by Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of USCCB, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States.

The bishops will receive reports from the National Review Board that advises the USCCB Committee on Protection of Children and Young People. They also will discuss pastoral responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and to the national crisis of racism. Other matters to be debated and voted on include the USCCB budget, the conference’s 2021-24 strategic plan and renewal of its ad hoc Committee Against Racism.

Even if it is not discussed much during the public portions of the meetings, the release of the McCarrick report certainly will loom large over the meetings.

In an electronic update to the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan referenced what, some suspected, was a signal about the imminent release of the report.

“We are also still waiting for the release of the so-called ‘McCarrick Report’ by the Holy See, detailing the damning story of former-cardinal Theodore McCarrick,” Cardinal Dolan wrote in a Nov. 5 email addressed to Catholics in the archdiocese. “That could be another black-eye for the church.”

But he said it was necessary to confront the truth.

“Better that the story come out, in all its awful detail, to both bring some measure of peace to the victim-survivors, as well as serve as a lesson on how to prevent a similar recurrence in the future,” Cardinal Dolan wrote. “We can thank Pope Francis for keeping his promise to undertake and release this report.”

The report has been a thorn in the side of bishops at their previous general meetings with some prelates urging its release.

In a brief presentation Nov. 11, 2019, to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Boston Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley told the bishops gathered in Baltimore the Vatican would release what it knew by Christmas 2019, or perhaps early in 2020. But that didn’t happen.

McCarrick was dismissed by the Vatican from the clerical state in February 2019 following an investigation of accusations that he had abused children early on in his career of more than 60 years as a cleric, and that he also had abused seminarians as a bishop.

He had long been one of the premier U.S. bishops, traveling the world on behalf of the Church as an esteemed member of the USCCB. After the accusations came to light in news reports, many were left wondering how he could have ascended in Church ranks when others are said to have been aware of his alleged abuses.

The Vatican said it would launch an investigation.

At the 2019 U.S. bishops meeting in Baltimore, the last time U.S. prelates gathered physically as a group before the pandemic, Cardinal O’Malley said that “we made it clear to Cardinal (Pietro) Parolin at the leadership of the Curia that the priests and the people of our country are anxious to receive the Holy See’s explanation of this tragic situation, how he could become an archbishop and cardinal, who knew what and when.”

He was speaking of a meeting with the Vatican secretary of state in early November 2019.

“The long wait has resulted in great frustration on the part of bishops and our people and indeed a very harsh and even cynical interpretation of the seeming silence,” Cardinal O’Malley said at the bishops’ Baltimore meeting, the last time the topic was publicly discussed.

Russell Shaw is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.

Catholic News Service contributed to this report.

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