U.S. bishops react to McCarrick laicization

U.S. bishops react to McCarrick laicization

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston addresses the USCCB autumn General Assembly in Baltimore, Nov. 12, 2018. CNS photo/Bob Roller

Catholic News Agency

February 18, 2019

Washington D.C.

Bishops from across the United States have reacted to the news that Theodore McCarrick has been found guilty of sexual abuse and expelled from the clerical state.

The disgraced former cardinal and archbishop of Washington and Newark was found guilty in a Vatican decision announced Saturday.

A Vatican administrative penal process concluded that McCarrick had solicited sex in the confessional and molested minors and adults, crimes aggravated by his abuse of authority. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handled the canonical process, imposed a penalty of laicization.

“The imposition on former Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of the penalty of his dismissal from the clerical state, thus prohibiting him any type of priestly ministry, underscores the gravity of his actions,” a Saturday statement from the Archdiocese of Washington reads.

McCarrick was Archbishop of Washington from 2001 until his retirement in 2006.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the Vatican’s penalty is “a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated.”

“No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church. For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgement will be one small step, among many, toward healing,” Dinardo said.

DiNardo said that his fellow bishops were strengthened in their resolve to be accountable to the Gospel, and that he is grateful for the way Pope Francis has responded to claims of abuse.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of McCarrick’s former diocese of Newark, said in a statement that McCarrick and other clerical abusers had “violated a sacred trust” and “caused incalculable harm” to the lives of victims – young and old.

“To all those abused by clergy, especially the victims of Theodore McCarrick, I continue to express my profound sadness and renew my heartfelt apologies for the life-long suffering you have endured,” Tobin said.

“Despite the reprehensible misconduct and crimes of all who have abused minors, we must challenge ourselves to continue to follow Christ our Redeemer in our Church, where the healing power of God’s love is manifest each day.”

The Archdiocese of Washington expressed hope the Vatican decision will assist survivors with the healing process, and reassure those who have “experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done.”

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, another of McCarrick’s former diocese, released a statement Saturday in which he reflected on the “range of emotions” those in his diocese were feeling as the news of McCarrick’s laicization continues to sink in.

“Today I am praying particularly for those lay people and priests who are survivors of Theodore McCarrick,” Checchio wrote.

“While the news does not take away the pain these survivors have experienced, it is hopefully a further step in their healing and a statement by the Church that these crimes and sins are certainly not to be tolerated, in any way.”

Checchio noted that McCarrick was in fact the founding bishop of the Metuchen diocese after its creation in 1981.

“Theodore McCarrick will always be associated with the history of our diocese and his legacy has become one of scandal and betrayal,” he wrote.

“However, I was reminded in prayer that our diocese is not founded on Theodore McCarrick, but Christ the Lord, who renews His Church in every age…I am grateful for the leadership of Pope Francis in acting decisively, in expediting this process and coming to this appropriate conclusion.”

Checchio reiterated his support for “all those who have been abused and victimized by members of the clergy” and encouraged victims to come forward.

“Since the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first believers, up and down the ages, the Church has been beset by scandals and divisive betrayals,” he reflected.

“However, those failings do not define our Church, but rather testify to the truth that Christ continues to work through the failures by calling us all to a life of repentance and holiness.”

Since last summer, McCarrick has been in residence at a Kansas friary, living a life of “prayer and penance” at the orders of Pope Francis, pending the outcome of his canonical process.

Now that McCarrick has been laicized, it is unclear if and for how long he will remain at the friary, or where he will go from there. McCarrick is 88 years old.