Theodore McCarrick, the first cardinal in U.S. history to resign because of sexual abuse allegations, will remain in church housing. But he’ll be a long way from Washington, where he served as archbishop and as a frequent friend of those in power from 2001 to 2006 and remained a globe-trotting church diplomat long after. The 88-year-old archbishop has moved to a friary in Kansas, the Archdiocese of Washington announced Friday.
Bishop Gerald Vincke, the leader of the Diocese of Salina, Kan., said he does not know why the friary in his diocese was chosen to house McCarrick, but he has a guess: “It’s very remote,” he said by phone on Friday. “When you’re in the friary, you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.”
Vincke was less than a month into his new role as bishop when his secretary told him Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington was trying to reach him. Vincke was in Rome at a training for newly ordained bishops. He called Wuerl, and they talked for several minutes.
Wuerl said that he had already gotten approval for McCarrick to move to the friary from the Rev. Christopher Popravak, who leads the Capuchin Franciscan community of friars there.
Vincke did not ask Wuerl why he chose Victoria, Kan., which is about 200 miles from Topeka.
The new bishop had mixed emotions about the notion of McCarrick coming to his diocese. Vincke said he felt mercy was important, but he also felt angry about McCarrick. “I had to reconcile my resentment and disappointment,” he said.
McCarrick was removed from ministry in June because of an allegation that he molested a teenage altar boy who was preparing for a Christmas service, nearly 50 years ago. After that, another man came forward to say he had been abused by McCarrick as a minor. And two New Jersey dioceses that McCarrick led before he came to Washington revealed that they had settled lawsuits in the 2000s with two men who said McCarrick harassed them as adults, and a third lawsuit had been pulled before a settlement could be reached.
Pope Francis ordered McCarrick to spend his time in prayer and penance until he faces an eventual Vatican trial.
“This whole summer that we’ve had with this clergy abuse scandal, he’s kind of at the forefront,” Vincke said. “If I get angry at anybody about it, it’s him. First of all, what he allegedly did — that is one aspect. The second aspect is that people seemed to know about this and nothing was done, which is really mind-boggling to me, how that all happened. And if people did know, how did he become a cardinal? It doesn’t make any sense.”
That is the question that many have been asking of Wuerl, McCarrick’s successor in Washington, and of Pope Francis, especially since Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò alleged in an explosive letter last month that Francis knew about McCarrick’s harassment of young adult seminarians and priests for years.
Wuerl has said repeatedly that he never heard any allegations against McCarrick before this summer. But, facing additional criticism of his handling of abuse cases when he was bishop of Pittsburgh since a Pennsylvania grand jury scrutinized his conduct there, Wuerl has pledged to go to Francis soon to discuss his potential resignation.
In a letter published on the Salina diocese website, Vincke acknowledged that some people would be upset about McCarrick’s arrival. He wrote, “Christ has compassion and mercy for all who repent of their sins.”
The friary in Victoria is next to a regionally famous basilica. It is also located close to Victoria Elementary School, a public school, but Vincke said that McCarrick would be “very restricted” from contact with children.
“My expectation is that he will stay within the friary,” Vincke said. “It does have a courtyard, so he will be able to get some fresh air. But it is a courtyard surrounded by walls.”
Vincke said his diocese would not be footing the bill for McCarrick, but he did not know how the arrangement would be paid for.