Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori acknowledged the pain evident in the Vatican’s report on the case of Theodore E. McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington and cardinal, who resigned from the College of Cardinals in 2018 and was laicized in 2019.
The 450-page report with 1,400 footnotes, released Nov. 10, details “the Holy See’s Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making” related to the former cardinal, from his birth in 1930 to 2017.
“While the release of the report brings us to another moment of painful awareness of our Church’s past failures, it also marks a new era of transparency in our Church, which the lay faithful have rightly demanded,” Archbishop Lori said in a message to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
He noted that Pope Francis had personally called for an investigation into the systematic failures that allowed McCarrick to rise through the ranks as a priest, monsignor, bishop, archbishop and cardinal and promised it would be released when complete.
The report was prepared by the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, and its publication was authorized by Pope Francis “for the good of the universal Church,” according to a note at the beginning of the report from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.
“Now that (the pope) has fulfilled that promise, not only are we reminded of the shocking misconduct of Mr. McCarrick, but we must also examine together the profound failings both of individual church leaders and of a system that served to protect, rather than expose, someone against whom there were repeated allegations of inappropriate and egregious sexual misconduct,” the archbishop said.
“While the contents of the report are painful, I am grateful that this information has finally come fully to light, and especially grateful to the victim-survivors who came forward, to those who persisted in demanding an investigation into their allegations, and to those who took appropriate action to answer those demands,” Archbishop Lori said.
As the archbishop cautioned that it would take some time to fully digest the lengthy report, he joined Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in welcoming the report.
In a statement, Archbishop Gomez said, “This is another tragic chapter in the church’s long struggle to confront the crimes of sexual abuse by clergy. To McCarrick’s victims and their families, and to every victim-survivor of sexual abuse by the clergy, I express my profound sorrow and deepest apologies.
“Please know that my brother bishops and I are committed to doing whatever is in our power to help you move forward and to ensure that no one suffers what you have been forced to suffer,” the conference president said.
Archbishop Lori recognized that the report serves as a painful reminder of past harms, and again offered “my humble and sincere apologies to anyone who has suffered abuse or harassment by a member of the clergy. As I have in the past, I offer the church’s pastoral support, as well as the opportunity to meet with me or our other bishops, to any survivor who might find that helpful,” the Baltimore archbishop said.
He pointed out that in March 2020, the U.S. bishops put into place a third-party reporting system, which can be accessed at www.reportbishopabuse.org to report allegations of sexual misconduct against children or vulnerable adults or interference by a bishop in an investigation of clergy abuse. The system was created in response to Pope Francis’ call in “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You Are the Light of the World”) for a universal and transparent system for episcopal accountability throughout the world.
The U.S. bishops’ system was similar to one that the Archdiocese of Baltimore had implemented in January 2019.
Archbishop Lori noted that the Archdiocese of Baltimore has implemented policies that exceed the minimum requirements of the national system, including the creation of an independent, third-party system for reporting incidents of harassment and other misconduct, which can be accessed on the archdiocese’s website.
In his letter to the faithful of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori said, “At a time when you, dear faithful, have had to endure so much suffering and anguish due to the worldwide pandemic, economic pressures, civil unrest and the ugly specter of racism, my heart truly aches to think that your Church could be a further occasion of pain and trauma.”
He added that he prays that the faithful will continue their relationship with “Jesus Christ, who will never fail us, and (that) his presence in the sacraments will bring you comfort.” He also encouraged people to continue to recognize their role as missionary disciples “and as an agent in helping to guide us to ever greater transparency, accountability and renewal. I welcome your involvement as we continue this work together.”
Email Christopher Gunty at editor@CatholicReview.org