A FEATURE of the Catholic Church’s rippling sexual abuse scandal is that past predations and coverups are often revealed by journalists, government authorities or victims and their advocates, but rarely by the church itself. That has been the case whether the alleged abusers were small-town priests, prominent bishops or the most renowned of the church’s alleged predators: former cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, who served as archbishop of Washington.
The pattern has reinforced the impression of a church culturally incapable of reckoning on its own with what amounts to a systematic moral collapse. For even after repeated pledges of transparency, zero tolerance, and a new era of accountability from the pope and other senior officials in Rome and the United States, fresh allegations surface of rape, assault, molestation and other outrages, and generally the news comes from sources other than church figures.
An instructive case is that of Mr. McCarrick, who, after he was credibly accused of abusing minors as well as young adult seminarians, was removed from the College of Cardinals last year and defrocked this year by the Vatican — the most severe such punishment meted out to a Catholic cardinal in modern memory. In a Vatican statement more than a year ago, Pope Francis pledged that “we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead” in Mr. McCarrick’s case, combing through “the entire documentation” in church records and making known conclusions and relevant facts.
Nearly 13 months later, that investigation continues without comment from the Vatican beyond a vague statement in February, when Mr. McCarrick was ejected from the priesthood, that a church proceeding had found him guilty of committing “sins” with minors and soliciting sex during confession. At the same time, it has emerged that senior church figures, including Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former archbishop of Washington, and others, knew about allegations that Mr. McCarrick regularly molested young adult seminarians and pressured them to sleep with him years before he was stripped of his titles and publicly rebuked.
Now, new accusations have surfaced from individuals who allege Mr. McCarrick subjected them to abuse as children. According to sources cited by The Post’s Michelle Boorstein, at least seven men have leveled new accusations that Mr. McCarrick abused them as boys. They came forward after Mr. McCarrick gave an interview to Slate magazine, blaming unnamed “enemies” for the allegations against him, which he denied.
Writing under the pseudonym Nathan Doe, one of the seven provided a chilling account of childhood trauma at the hands of a man he describes as “untouchable and in complete control.” In the end, he writes, he and his cohort of victims decided “to defend the truth” by telling their stories. Meanwhile, the promised accounting from the church is still pending.