ROME – The Vatican on Tuesday will release its report into the rise and fall of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the once-influential American cardinal who was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after a Vatican investigation confirmed decades of rumors that he was a sexual predator.
The McCarrick scandal is different from other cases of clergy abuse, primarily because there is evidence that Vatican and U.S. church leaders knew of his penchant for bedding seminarians but turned a blind eye as McCarrick rose to the top of the U.S. church as an adept fundraiser who advised three popes.
When McCarrick’s crimes were revealed, the scandal sparked such a crisis of confidence in the church's U.S. and Vatican hierarchies that Francis approved new procedures to investigate bishops accused of abuse in a bid to end decades of impunity for Catholic leaders.
But beyond that, the McCarrick case has forced the Vatican to acknowledge that adults can be victims of sexual abuse, too. The Vatican has long tried to paint any sexual relations between priests and adult men or women as consensual, focusing its prevention policies on protecting minors.
But as a bishop, McCarrick held all the power in his relationships with his seminarians: to refuse his sexual advances or report his misconduct could have spelled an end to their priestly vocations and careers in the church. The Vatican's new policies, enacted as a response to the McCarrick scandal, spell out that abuse can happen when anyone is forced “to perform or submit to sexual acts" through abuses of authority by church leaders.
Here is what we know about the McCarrick case ahead of the release of the Vatican report:
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?