Where did The Vatican Go Wrong with Cardinal McCarrick?

One sentence says it all about McCarrick & the Vatican

“McCarrick’s denial was believed.”

In the nearly 460 page just-released Vatican report supposedly about the church personnel who enabled a top church official’s sexual abuse, this single sentence strikes us at Horowitz Law as particularly telling.


The report’s title is “Report on the Vatican’s Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Regarding Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.” So the focus is supposed to be on high-ranking Catholic officials who helped McCarrick, not about McCarrick himself.

But that sentence – “McCarrick’s denial was believed.”- mentions only the proven wrongdoer, McCarrick. And it implies that McCarrick is the bad guy, for denying his crimes.

It tells us nothing new. We all know McCarrick denies guilt. So do most predators.

What we need to know is “Who fell for McCarrick’s predictable deceit?”

And here, this sentence – like much of the report itself – tells us nothing.

One could argue that the enablers who dismissed McCarrick’s accusers and thus helped keep McCarrick in power are perhaps even worse than McCarrick himself.

But, thanks to this report which has been touted as ‘transparent’ and ‘unprecedented,’ we still don’t know who all those enablers are.

Look at this a slightly different way: At a minimum, an accusation leveled but reportedly disbelieved, must involve at least two individuals: the one who claimed innocence and the one who accepted that claim.

We know who the first person is: McCarrick. But who’s the second one or ones? The Vatican conveniently doesn’t name him or them. Who “believed” McCarrick’s denial?

That’s what the Catholic hierarchy repeatedly does: focus solely on the already-known offender and ignore or conceal the still-hidden enablers. (We say ‘enablers’ because rarely is there only one other church staffer who saw, suspected, suffered or learned of the abuse and hid it or overlooked it. Usually, there are several or many.).

Another reason this sentence is telling: like much of the rest of the report, this sentence conveniently uses the passive voice to protect those who stood silently by or actively helped McCarrick move up in the church.

For instance, Cardinal Carlo Maria Vigano has long blasted Francis and his colleagues for mishandling the McCarrick case. But the report merely says Vigano’s account “is sharply disputed.” By whom? No answer. Why? No answer.

These omissions and vague phrases are not the ‘transparency’ Francis and other top church bureaucrats repeatedly promise.

Third, it is of course possible that this sentence is a lie: “McCarrick’s denial was believed.” (In fact, why SHOULD we believe essentially the same Vatican system now, when by their own admission, they’ve kept secret terrible sexual assaults and cover ups for decades?)

It could well be that McCarrick’s denial was NOT believed. It’s very possible that several top church officials thought “Well, some years ago McCarrick hurt some adults. But we’ve successfully kept it all hidden for a very long time. And he’s an incredibly popular prelate, prolific fundraiser and shrewd diplomat. So let’s keep doing what we’ve done. Let’s not rock the boat.”

And they kept silent.

A final point: several times, the report notes praises various parts of McCarrick’s skills and performance, stressing most of all his prodigious fundraising.

Such language excuses but doesn’t explain, much less prevent, actions and inaction that let McCarrick keep abusing while winning ever-more accolades and promotions.

And such language of course rubs more salt into the already-deep and still-fresh wounds of abuse victims. (Think Bill Cosby victims like hearing “But he’s SO funny” or Harvey Weinstein victims like hearing “But Harvey sure is talented.”)

At the same time, in this report, Vatican officials also claim the big bucks McCarrick raked in weren’t all that connected to his continuous climb up the clerical ladder.


McCarrick gave at least $600,000 to church higher-ups, mostly to Vatican officials. He gave $90,000 to Pope John Paul II and $291,000 to Pope Benedict, according to the Washington Post.


And this had little or nothing to do with the claim that McCarrick’s denial was believed?

Come on!