Archbishop McCarrick and accountability

| Archbishop Bernard Hebda | August 9, 2018 | 0 Comments

Every time Mass is celebrated, the priest prays that Jesus will “look not on our sins but on the faith of [his] Church… .” That’s been an important prayer for me in the time that I have been serving this archdiocese, well aware of our sins but equally aware of the strong and vibrant faith of this local Church.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

I’ve been praying that prayer even more earnestly in these past weeks as the Church in the United States has once again come face-to-face with its sins, with reports that former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one of the most prominent Churchmen in the United States in the last quarter century, has been accused of abusing two minors and sexually harassing or assaulting a number of seminarians and young priests. To make matters worse (if that is even possible), evidence has surfaced that indicates that a bishop, as well as some priests and laity, had brought the allegations about misconduct with seminarians to the attention of Church authorities but to no avail: Archbishop McCarrick was nonetheless “promoted” to become the archbishop in our nation’s capital, and elevated to the College of Cardinals.

While I realize that it is not always easy to evaluate the credibility of those bringing allegations, and that there’s often a tendency to believe those we know over those we don’t, I don’t think that the Church in the United States will rest — and confidence will be restored — until the matter is independently investigated and explained, and assurances are given that there are safeguards in place to make sure that something like this couldn’t happen again.

The matter has been particularly troubling to me personally due to the fact that I had served in the Archdiocese of Newark as coadjutor archbishop from November 4, 2013, to March 25, 2016, when I was named archbishop here. It was while I was in Newark that I was introduced to then-Cardinal McCarrick.

A number of good Catholics have written to ask for a personal accounting on my part, inquiring whether I was made aware in my time in Newark of the 2005 and 2007 settlements involving Archbishop McCarrick, or if I knew of any allegations against him. I can state unequivocally that I learned of those settlements only in June of this year, as news broke about the unrelated claim that had been filed in the Archdiocese of New York. What I know of the settlements I know from the newspapers. When serving in Newark, I was regularly briefed on current legal matters of all sorts, but not on past legal matters (unless they were still being discussed in the press). By the time I arrived in Newark in November 2013, the 2005 and 2007 settlements were apparently considered ancient history.

It would be untrue to state that I had never heard any allegations about Cardinal McCarrick. Years before I ever lived in Newark, and never imagining that I would be assigned there, I had indeed read — as a somewhat geeky ex-lawyer — an allegation about Cardinal McCarrick in the context of a 2005 lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against Archbishop Myers, Cardinal Eagan, Bishop Hubbard and the Irish Christian Brothers. While the complaint didn’t supply any details, the plaintiff was reported to have said to a journalist that “Archbishop McCarrick would share a bed with seminarians but not engage in any activity with them.” The complaint would later be formally amended to include that allegation. Knowing, however, that this lawsuit was completely dismissed by the state and federal courts, I never gave the particular allegation about Cardinal McCarrick any credence.

I can also state without exception that no one in my years in Newark ever told me that they were improperly touched by Archbishop McCarrick, and no one ever told me that they had to share a bed with him or that they had seen anyone share a bed with him. I heard lots of gut-wrenching stories in my two-and-a-half years there, but none of them involved Archbishop McCarrick. With St. John Paul II’s 1995 visit, he was remembered for “bringing a saint to Newark,” not as an abuser of seminarians, minors or priests.

When I was installed here in St. Paul, he joined me at lunch along with my father, sister, godmother and then 12-year-old nephew. I can assure you that I would never have allowed that to happen if I had any reason to know or even suspect the things that have been reported in the newspapers this past month.

While the letters and emails of recent days are sober reminders that there’s still a long way to go in restoring trust, I nonetheless welcome the efforts to hold me accountable to you, the faithful of this archdiocese. The events of these past weeks have shown that no one can be above the law, regardless of rank or privilege. I was grateful for the opportunity to reinforce that with our seminarians this past weekend, and I look forward to continuing my work with the Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, and our Archdiocesan Review Board, in creating a culture in which no one need be afraid or reluctant to bring forth an allegation of misconduct.

Our heavenly patron, St. Paul, reminds us that “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” May these difficult days be days of great grace for this local Church.

Arzobispo McCarrick y responsabilidad

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Category: Only Jesus