Cardinal O’Malley:  I Didn’t Know About McCarrick

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Cardinal Sean O’Malley says he didn’t know about former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse of teen-age boys and young-adult seminarians and that he never saw a letter from a New York priest three years ago describing McCarrick’s troubling behavior.

“Allegations regarding Archbishop McCarrick’s sexual crimes were unknown to me until the recent media reports,” O’Malley said in a written statement Monday. “I understand not everyone will accept this answer given the way the Church has eroded the trust of our people. My hope is that we can repair the trust and faith of all Catholics and the wider community by virtue of our actions and accountability in how we respond to this crisis.”

McCarrick’s behavior was widely known in certain Church circles, as several reporters and clerics have made clear in recent weeks.

Father Boniface Ramsey, a priest of the Dominican order, sent a letter to O’Malley about McCarrick in June 2015. O’Malley’s secretary, Father Robert Kickham, sent Ramsey a bureaucratic letter responding that the commission O’Malley sits on doesn’t deal with allegations such as the one Ramsey passed along concerning McCarrick.

O’Malley says he never saw Ramsey’s letter.

“In retrospect it is now clear to Fr. Kickham and to me that I should have seen that letter precisely because it made assertions about the behavior of an Archbishop in the Church. I take responsibility for the procedures followed in my office and I also am prepared to modify those procedures in light of this experience,” O’Malley said.

McCarrick, now 88, served as archbishop of Washington from 2001 until 2006, when he retired, and as a cardinal from 2001 until a few weeks ago, when he resigned.

McCarrick’s rise through the Church hierarchy from priest to auxiliary bishop to bishop in charge of two dioceses to metropolitan archbishop to cardinal calls into question the Church’s bishop-making process, O’Malley said.

“What makes all this so difficult to understand is that it has been my experience that when a priest is being vetted to be named a bishop, any doubt or question concerning his faithfulness to his promise of celibacy would result in removing his name from consideration to be named Bishop,” O’Malley said. “The Bishops Conference is anxious to understand how Theodore McCarrick could have been named Bishop, Archbishop and Cardinal. We must be certain that this never happens again. That is why the Bishops Conference are requesting an investigation by the Holy See with the participation of lay people.”