Theodore E. McCarrick: Cardinal, Archbishop, Father – no more. Now he is simply Ted, and no one’s uncle (we hope). He is for all practical purposes another Catholic face like the rest of us sitting in the pews.
To be honest, I’m not sure exactly how I feel about this. The defrocking of Uncle Ted is certainly a just action. God knows he deserves worse (rite of degradation anyone). Strong action was certainly needed in helping his victims to find healing. The decision itself is something that I must believe has probably shaken ol’ Ted to the core. He did appeal it; it certainly was something he did not want, and he has continued to maintain his innocence. I’m not going to lie – there is definitely a part of me that derives vengeful pleasure from his demise. But I also truly hope that the pain and humiliation shocks him into true sorrow and repentance; I hope this anguish will prompt him to recognize his crimes and immensely grave sins, and move him to true repentance and publicly admit his guilt and apologize.
The Vatican statement does not say what will become of McCarrick in this new state in which he finds himself. Herein lies the rub, part of it anyways. Unless something has been done to keep him under the direct authority of the Pope, McCarrick is free to go. He is no longer bound to live a life of prayer and penance. Now he isn’t exactly a spring chicken, but he is still able to simply go forth and live… with no oversight. Due to the statutes of limitation in New York, he also will not serve any time in prison for his crimes.
While disgraced and a pariah, Ted still has friends in high places – friends who will support him, take care of him, and make sure he leads a comfortable life. His buddies, like Cupich pictured above, are not going to be the ones that help him though. It will be wealthy laymen who are known by no one, fly under the radar, and have no problem with ol’ Ted’s philandering. Additionally, considering how amazingly talented Ted is with fundraising and money, it would be foolish to think he doesn’t have anything stashed away for himself. Ted manipulated, harassed, coerced, and straight-up forced adolescents and men into sex over a period of decades. Someone doesn’t act in this manner for so long so frequently and then turn that off, no matter how old they are. He’ll need a caretaker. It isn’t at all unreasonable to think there is a strong likelihood that when ol’ Ted needs someone to help him out in his old age that it will be someone who doesn’t mind a little pat while doing the work.
What good does this do Ted? Yes, that is a question we need to ask. It isn’t just about retributive justice. The audacity of faith is the desire for the healing and salvation of someone like Ted. The audacity of hope is the assurance that such healing and salvation will come to Ted. The audacity of love is the acting on such faith and hope for their accomplishment and for Ted’s good. Does letting ol’ Ted run free to do as he will work for a true conversion of heart? Even a heart as black and shriveled as his is not beyond the grace of God. It must also be seriously asked it Ted going free actually has the good of others in mind. Who in his new found freedom could (will?) he hurt? While I am glad he has been defrocked, I do not believe that merely setting him free as a layman (practically speaking) is necessarily an act of virtue on the part of Pope Francis and others in Rome. Was it not possible to defrock him and keep him on the ecclesiastical leash?
My fear – and it is very much a valid fear considering the actions or lack thereof from the Vatican – is that the dismissal of McCarrick from the clerical state is an attempt to wash their hands of the whole affair. My fear is that this is very much an attempt to say, “See, we took this seriously and took strong decisive action. You can trust us to clean up this mess in the Church.” Except Pope Francis hasn’t taken strong decisive action in this ecclesiastical shit storm nor can he be trusted to do so. The unfortunate reality is Pope Francis has done a magnificent job of implicating himself in multiple cases of abuse cover-up and enabling – both before and after his election to the papacy.
The sad, horrifying truth is that the individual Ted McCarrick is one piece of the crisis. They looked at him, defrocked him, and wiped themselves of him. But what of his network? Pope Francis still has not sent an apostolic visitator to investigate McCarrick’s network. He has not opened an investigation into Uncle Ted’s network here in the United States nor abroad. He has given no indication that this will ever happen. In the meantime, clerics who were part of his network as well as clerics greatly influenced by him, regardless of whether or not they were sexual with him, are very much at work in the Church. They are very much continuing the work of good ol’ Uncle Ted. Is it possible the Pope has not opened an investigation because of just how many people would be implicated?
Ted got what he deserved and less. I hope his victims lay and clergy alike are able to make progress in healing because of this action rightly taken against him. But I still want to see virtue from the men who inhabit the Vatican and episcopacy. I see no virtue in their action against Ted. I see wolves turning on a leader who became the weakest in the pack. If I’m to think differently, I need to actually see virtue, which means I need to see action in the face of our crisis that manifests virtue. Still waiting.