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Pope John Paul II Knew of Sexual Misconduct Allegations against Ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick: Vatican Report

Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick during an interview with Reuters at the North American College in Rome, February 14, 2013 (Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)

Pope John Paul II knew of allegations of sexual misconduct against defrocked cardinal Theodore McCarrick, but did not follow up on them, according to a new report released by the Vatican.

Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick in 2019 after a church investigation found that the former cardinal, now 90 years old, had sexually abused minors and adult seminarians. One of the latest lawsuits against McCarrick claims the former cardinal ran a “sex cabal” from his New Jersey beach house, allegedly abusing at least seven minors over the course of years.

While vetting McCarrick in 2000 ahead of his appointment as archbishop of Washington, John Paul II was informed by several U.S. bishops that McCarrick had previously shared a bed with young men, the report reveals. McCarrick was nevertheless appointed as archbishop of Washington, D.C., and subsequently brought to the rank of cardinal. The report alleges that various church officials in addition to John Paul II also either ignored or misrepresented the accusations against McCarrick.

Pope Francis is largely spared responsibility in the report, which states that before 2017 Francis knew “only that there had been allegations and rumors related to immoral conduct with adults,” and believed the allegations had been “reviewed and rejected by John Paul II.” But when a former altar boy brought credible allegations against McCarrick in 2017, that event triggered a church investigation that eventually led Francis to defrock the ex-cardinal.

“There are so many people suffering out there because of one man,” James Grein, whom McCarrick sexually abused for two decades beginning at the age of 11, told the Associated Press. “And he thinks that he’s more important than the rest of us. He’s destroyed me and he’s destroyed thousands of other lives. . . . It’s time that the Catholic Church comes clean with all of its destruction.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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