Cardinal McCarrick and the Church’s ticking time bombs

time bombs

The revelation that 87-year-old retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been removed from public ministry on charges that he twice molested a teenage boy in New York in 1970 and 1971 marks a new low for the Catholic Church in the United States.

All these years, McCarrick apparently knew he was a ticking time bomb, a man with an alleged history of sexual predation who had heretofore avoided the hammer.

At 87 years old, he’d almost made it too; he’d almost successfully run the gauntlet and avoided the reach of earthly justice.

That is, until the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York deemed an almost 50-year-old accusation of assault against a minor not just credible but substantiated.

Compounding the news was the revelation from the archbishop of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, that there have been at least three accusations leveled in the past against McCarrick by adults, two of which were settled out of court (and perhaps contained clauses requiring the victims’ silence).

Cardinal McCarrick has appealed the decision, but over the last week an increasing number of sordid stories about his sexual harassment of seminarians and other inappropriate actions have emerged.

Once again, the public’s trust is shattered, the reputation of the Church is harmed, another respected name is reduced to ashes of shame.

Cardinal McCarrick joins the ever-growing litany of prominent and powerful men who have fallen from grace in recent years upon allegations that they committed or covered up sexual predation: Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Roger Ailes, Al Franken, Joe Paterno, Jimmy Savile, Marcel Maciel, Bernard Law.

Some of these men, like Cardinal McCarrick, first faced charges in the waning years of their lives. Others were at the peak of their careers when they were outed.

McCarrick apparently knew he was a ticking time bomb, a man with an alleged history of sexual predation who had heretofore avoided the hammer.

The extent of the crimes of some, such as British television personality Jimmy Savile, were not exposed until after their deaths.

And, as with so many of these men, the public may never know the full extent of their crimes.

One question that troubles me greatly is how many predators might there be who have not yet been exposed?

How many prominent priests, bishops, and cardinals are hiding sex crimes from their pasts and hoping to avoid the public shame of having them revealed?

There’s a reason why Catholics have traditionally named buildings and institutions after saints.

In due time, the Archdiocese of Washington will rename the McCarrick Center (home to Catholic Charities and a Spanish-language mission) in Silver Spring.

At least no one has to worry about renaming McCarrick high school in New Jersey; it was already shut down in 2015. Continue reading

  • Michael Lewis is one of a group of Catholics who have become increasingly concerned about the attacks from within the Church on Pope Francis and his teachings. He blogs at
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