Washington Cardinal-designate Wilton Gregory, reacting to the Vatican’s long-awaited report on the rise and fall of disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, said the report details a “tragic chronicle” about that churchman’s “unconscionable human violation” and also “failures of competence, communications and culture” by Catholic Church leaders.

In a Nov. 16 statement issued as the nation’s Catholic bishops were gathering for their annual meeting -- held online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic – Cardinal-designate Gregory said he felt “deep sorrow” for those victimized by McCarrick “who should have been able to rely on the ministers of Christ’s Church to protect and respect them,” and he said the Nov. 10 report “demands to be viewed through the eyes of the survivors and their loved ones.”

“As has happened too often in recent history, it revealed to me and to you dark corners of our Church of which I am deeply ashamed and profoundly angry – again, “Cardinal-designate Gregory said, adding, “It pushed into sunlight a culture that has too often served not to build up our cherished Catholic Church – Jesus Christ’s greatest Gift to us – but to undermine it, far beyond the amoral ecclesiastical tenure of a single fallen cleric. Those of us in leadership have too often failed to understand, to acknowledge, to respond to, and to prevent the damage done to our innocent faithful – minors and adults.”

The Vatican’s report on McCarrick, issued on Nov. 10, detailed in more than 400 pages how Church leaders failed to believe and take action on allegations about sexual misconduct of McCarrick, who was promoted by Pope St. John Paul II to be archbishop of Washington, where he was installed in January 2001 and made a cardinal by the pontiff the next month. McCarrick retired as Washington’s archbishop in 2006. In 2018, McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals after the Archdiocese of New York determined that allegations that McCarrick had abused a minor decades earlier were credible, and the next year, Pope Francis dismissed McCarrick from the priesthood, after a Vatican investigation found that he had sexually abused minors and engaged in sexual misconduct with adults.

When the Vatican issued the McCarrick report on Nov. 10 detailing that cleric’s advancement in the Church despite many warning signals, Cardinal-designate Gregory initially said, “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 also noted that while he hadn’t yet had the chance to read the report then, “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.”

In his Nov. 16 statement issued after reading the McCarrick report, Cardinal-designate Gregory didn’t mince words or hide his anger at what the report revealed, decrying what he called the Church’s mismanagement of a cleric, who while appearing “outwardly charming and gregarious,” was shown to be “a devious man” who victimized others.

“It (this report) is about unconscionable human violation and the pain that too many people endured at the hands of a deceitful man who only pretended to want what was best for them in order to get what he wanted for himself,” Cardinal-designate Gregory said. “Further, it is about leaders – Catholic leaders – who upon their ordination promised our heavenly Father that they would always put His precious people first; yet, through failures of competence, communication and culture, they seem to have completely mismanaged what they came to know about this devious man.”

Cardinal-designate Gregory said the McCarrick report seemed to indicate that people who initially communicated allegations about that churchman anonymously “must have feared retribution from the structures and persons that shielded him. When harm is being done in the name of the Holy Catholic Church, one must never again feel constrained to come forward and speak out.” 

Washington’s archbishop noted how “Pope Francis has already put into place procedures designed to uncover the truth in such cases of clerical and hierarchical wrongdoing.”

In May 2019, Pope Francis issued "Vos estis lux mundi" ("You are the light of the world") revising and clarifying Church norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable.

The Catholic News Service has reported how that document “requires all priests and religious to report suspected abuse or cover-ups and encourages any layperson to report through a now-mandated reporting ‘system’ or office that must be set up in each diocese. It insists leaders will be held accountable not only for committing abuse themselves, but also for interfering with, covering up or failing to address abuse accusations of which they were aware. It also established that bishops and religious superiors are accountable for protecting seminarians, novices and members of religious orders from violence and sexual abuse stemming from an abuse of power.”

Cardinal-designate Gregory -- who became Washington’s archbishop in 2019, and who will be elevated by Pope Francis to the College of Cardinals during a Nov. 28, 2020 Consistory -- said the report did not have any revelations of sexual abuse by McCarrick during that prelate’s tenure in Washington.

“While I am of course grateful for that, it provides little comfort,” Cardinal-designate Gregory said. “I promise you with all my heart that our vigilance in the Archdiocese of Washington will continue – we will support the healing of those who have been harmed, our protocols for reporting and responding to these crimes will continue unabated and with renewed vigor, our safe environment efforts on behalf of those of every age will reflect the very best practices available.”

Since 1986, the Archdiocese of Washington has had a Child Protection Policy, which has been updated several times over the years, including in 2019 to mandate protections for adults against sexual harassment and abuses of power by those in authority. The policy includes mandatory reporting of credible abuse allegations to civil authorities, criminal background checks for those who work or volunteer with youth, pastoral care for abuse survivors and their families, and age-appropriate educational programs for youth to safeguard them against abuse.

Closing his statement about the McCarrick report, Cardinal-Gregory noted, “The Church has taken a step forward, albeit much delayed, in looking honestly at both this particular case and at the future of ecclesial accountability.”

Washington’s archbishop said the Catholic Church must continue to take meaningful steps to restore its integrity.

“This will require time and transparency, contrition and commitment, prayer and reconciliation, authenticity and humility,” Cardinal –designate Gregory said.

Washington’s archbishop then concluded his statement on the report about his disgraced predecessor by noting that he and the Church’s other bishops should “humbly beg for God’s mercy” and implore God “to shower His grace upon all whose faith has been tested too often by what we have done and what we have failed to do.”

Then the statement from Washington’s archbishop concluded with a prayer familiar to Catholics, the Act of Contrition that they recite during the Sacrament of Confession:

Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.