In a Nov. 10, 2020 statement after the Vatican issued its long awaited report on former cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s rise in the Catholic Church despite allegations of abusive behavior, Washington Cardinal-designate Wilton Gregory, said that disclosure was essential to help bring healing, calling it an “an important, difficult and necessary document.”

“We know that if true redemptive healing is ever to commence - for those who have been harmed and for the Church Herself – this disclosure must be made,” Cardinal-designate Gregory said.

Cardinal-designate Gregory, who was installed as the archbishop of Washington in May 2019, pledged transparency and honesty in dealing with the abuse crisis that had shaken the country and the Archdiocese of Washington in a personal way. McCarrick, who served as the archbishop of Washington from 2001 until his retirement in 2006, had been dismissed from the clerical state in February 2019 by Pope Francis, meaning McCarrick could no longer publicly function as a priest and was prohibited from any priestly ministry, after a Vatican investigation into allegations that he had abused minors and engaged in sexual misconduct with adults.

Noting that he, like the world’s Catholics, had not yet had the chance to read the Vatican’s lengthy report on McCarrick,  Cardinal-designate Gregory said, “By virtue of the simple fact that this investigation had to be conducted and this report had to be written, my heart hurts for all who will be shocked, saddened, scandalized and angered by the revelations contained therein.”

Here is the text of Cardinal-designate Gregory’s statement issued on Nov. 10 after the Vatican’s McCarrick report was made public:

“Today the Vatican released its long-anticipated report on Theodore McCarrick.  The text is some 400 pages in length and, if it is not already, will be available shortly in its entirety on the Vatican website (www.vatican.va ). Though I am only now receiving this document, as you are, and have not had an opportunity to review it carefully, by virtue of the simple fact that this investigation had to be conducted and this report had to be written, my heart hurts for all who will be shocked, saddened, scandalized and angered by the revelations contained therein. Nonetheless, we know that if true redemptive healing is ever to commence - for those who have been harmed and for the Church Herself – this disclosure must be made. 

“Once I have had an opportunity to study the report more closely, especially as it relates to our Archdiocese of Washington, I will have more to say. This is an important, difficult and necessary document, and it demands prayerful, thorough and thoughtful reflection. May God’s infinite Mercy be upon us; may His unlimited Grace sustain us.”

The Vatican announced on Feb. 16, 2019 that Pope Francis, at the conclusion of a process conducted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, imposed on Theodore McCarrick the penalty of his dismissal from the clerical state, thus prohibiting him from functioning in any type of priestly ministry. 

The Catholic News Service reported that in its announcement, the Vatican said McCarrick, then 88 and the former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, was found guilty of "solicitation in the sacrament of Confession and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

The CNS report said that according to the Vatican, a panel of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith found McCarrick guilty Jan. 11, 2019 and his appeal of the decision was rejected that Feb. 13 by the congregation. McCarrick was informed of the decision Feb. 15 and Pope Francis "recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law," making a further appeal impossible.

Following the Vatican announcement of the pope’s action in the McCarrick case in February 2019, the Archdiocese of Washington then issued the following statement:

“The imposition on former Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of the penalty of his dismissal from the clerical state, thus prohibiting him any type of priestly ministry, underscores the gravity of his actions.

“Our hope and prayer is that this decision serves to help the healing process for survivors of abuse, as well as those who have experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done. We also pray that the Church may be guided to move forward in her mission.”

The archdiocese’s statement then noted that according to Church law, one who has lost the clerical state cannot function in any way as a bishop, priest, or deacon. He cannot celebrate the sacraments nor wear clerical attire or be addressed by his former title.

The penalty against former Archbishop McCarrick marked a dramatic fall for a man who had been a popular churchman known for traveling around the world on humanitarian and other Church missions and for his fundraising ability and media appearances. The CNS report noted that the 2019 penalty on McCarrick “was the toughest meted out to a cardinal by the Vatican in modern times.” 

On June 20, 2018, then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick acknowledged that he had been informed “that an allegation of sexual abuse of a teenager from almost 50 years ago had been made against me. At the time, I was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.”

The retired archbishop in a statement then said he was “shocked by the report,” and maintained his innocence, and added that he fully cooperated in the process, which included reporting the matter to police, having it investigated by an independent agency, and given to the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York.

That review board found those allegations to be credible and substantiated, and McCarrick said in obedience he accepted the Holy See’s decision “that I no longer exercise my public ministry.”

The retired archbishop, who turned 88 that July and who turned 90 in July 2020, added in his initial statement that, “I realize this painful development will shock my many friends, family members and people I have been honored to serve in my 60 years as a priest. While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.”

In a June 2018 letter addressed to the Archdiocese of Washington community that was shared by pastors, Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, then the archbishop of Washington, added, “While the Archdiocese of New York investigated this claim, at the same time, I requested that a similar review be made of all Archdiocese of Washington’s records.   Based on that review, I can report that no claim – credible or otherwise – has been made against Cardinal McCarrick during his time here in Washington.”   

Then-Cardinal McCarrick served as the archbishop of Washington from January 2001 until May 2006, when he retired. A New York native, he was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of New York in 1958. During his years as a priest of New York, he served from 1958-65 as assistant chaplain, dean and director of development at The Catholic University of America, from 1965-69 as president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, from 1969-71 as that archdiocese’s associate secretary for education and as a parochial vicar of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Manhattan, as secretary to New York Cardinal Terence Cooke from 1971-77, and as a New York auxiliary bishop from 1977-81.

He was installed as the founding bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, in 1982, and served there for four years. Then from 1986-2000, he served as the archbishop of Newark, until his appointment as archbishop of Washington, where he was installed in 2001 and made a cardinal that year.

In his years as the archbishop of Washington, then-Cardinal McCarrick opened the Redemptoris Mater Seminary for diocesan missionary priests and advocated for expanding educational opportunities for children from low-income families. He also launched a capital campaign to provide an endowment for archdiocesan outreach and ministries. 

Also in June 2018, Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin issued a statement about the case, noting, “In the past, there have been allegations that he (then-Archbishop McCarrick) engaged in sexual behavior with adults. This Archdiocese and the Diocese of Metuchen received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements.”

Newark’s archbishop noted then that many in that archdiocese “developed strong relationships with him and appreciate the impact of his service. Those feelings are likely hard to reconcile with the news of a credible and substantiated claim of abuse of a minor. While Cardinal McCarrick maintains his innocence and the canonical process continues, we must put first the serious nature of this matter with respect and support for the process aimed at hearing victims and finding truth.” 

In July 2018, the New York Times published stories detailing alleged abusive behavior toward seminarians by McCarrick while he was a bishop in New Jersey, and the story of a man who said he was the first child McCarrick baptized after ordination and claimed that from the time he was 11, the churchman sexually abused him over a period of about two decades. 

On July 28, 2018,Pope Francis announced that he had accepted the resignation from the College of Cardinals of Cardinal McCarrick and ordered him to maintain “a life of prayer and penance” until a canonical trial examined accusations that he sexually abused minors.

In October 2018, the Catholic News Service reported that the Vatican promised a thorough review of how it handled allegations of sexual misconduct by then-Archbishop McCarrick and noted that Pope Francis had said, “We will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead.”