The Cardinal and the Crisis



        There’s a biblical reference that the renowned Paul the Apostle once made, and which seems awkward to me, when I think of the numerous priests who have been caught abusing young boys: “I have learned”, Paul the Apostle said long ago, “ that in whatever state I am in, to be content…” Content in sexual abuse? How awkward and out of place that is when day after day you read about another teenage boy pouring out the inhumane sexual exploitation he’s gone through and  always did not want to. One sexual abuse upon a young boy, said writer Herbert Ward, casts a shadow the length of a lifetime. And incredibly, it’s done over and over and over, by a man – and many other men — who have been ordained to a priestly and Christian vocation. This is absolutely dreadful and, in many situations, frequent.

                    Consider this: a Cardinal – a very high priestly level – Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.  Like so many other elite clerics in Catholicism  he was a meritorious working priest: PhD in Sociology; Dean of students at a Catholic University, then from Bishop to Archbishop and, countless other levels, along with his five languages: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. There’s much more but His Eminence was  a man of reasonable dignity, professional purpose.  Sad to say he was a regular sexual abuser of young males who went with him on overnight trips. Throughout his entire life, he was “active” as said here, but never rebuked.  In a New York Times article of 2018, a young former priest Robert Ciolek, recalled how he accepted sleeping– or trying to sleep – in a single bed with McCarrick. Apparently much went on given the fact that the Times story alluded to it in an early paragraph: “Bishop McCarrick began inviting him on overnight trips, sometimes alone and sometimes with other young men training to be priests. Then the bishop could often assign Mr. Ciolek to share his room, which had only one bed. The two men would sometimes say night prayers together, before Bishop McCarrick would make a request. He’d say: “come over here and rub my shoulders a little.” That extended into unwanted touching in bed.

     In any case, he was on his way to becoming a Cardinal which he did. But suddenly, in the early summer of 2018, Cardinal McCarrick was shocked when he was removed from the very profession by the archdiocese of New York which claimed or discovered that he had “molested” a 16 year old altar boy. But wait. The incident took place nearly 50 years earlier. But it set things in motion and more and more was to be exposed.  On the recent July 28, The Washington Post released the fact that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was no more. The first sentence will suffice: “The former archbishop of Washington , accused of sexually abusing adults and minors for decades, resigned from the College of Cardinals on Saturday, becoming the first cardinal in history to step down due to sexual abuse allegations and magnifying the abuse crisis that Pope Francis is grappling with around the globe….” (The whole story is unfolding in the press.)

     A Catholic writer, John Gehring , who served the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, was very candid at the McCarrick news. Gehring, a respected Catholic author was deeply involved in the American Conference of Catholic Bishops while McCarrick led the Washington archdiocese. When all the above had been revealed Gehring told the media: “Most Catholics, including myself, are just sickened by the fact that it seems so much was known about his behavior, and he still climbed the ranks of the church. He never should have been made a Cardinal… It can never happen again.”  It’s easily said but the public is now used to hundreds of Catholic priests who exploit their calling and God knows what else they do on the quiet. Over the years, as a minster who is in the media, I’ve seen scores of journalists, who would not dare to exploit a personal financial opportunity. If they can abide with moral principles, how come so many priests exploit it rather than adhere it. This is Christian character?

     There are so many questionable aspects surrounding McCarrick, it’s almost impossible to imagine him as a steady honorable man. Oh yes, I know that there are lay people who are getting fed up with the excess of exploitation by their hundred opportunistic priests. It must be, to the honorable clergymen, a head shaking disappointment for decades, and also deep concern for the ethics of future young men who choose the priesthood. The label is now out there: if a major figure like McCarrick is blessed by the early Vatican hierarchy, and then goes ahead exploiting opportunity for himself, why not the other guys? I hasten to include the fact that, in my judgement, more Catholic bishops and other clergy, would not exploit their opportunity, but live an ethical life. Sad to say, the evidence is out that this man is not properly ethical.