When Pope John Paul II made Theodore McCarrick a cardinal in 2001, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., was a silk-between-the-fingers fundraiser. A year later, when the pope summoned the U.S. cardinals to Rome to confront the abuse crisis, McCarrick took the lead at press conferences — a bold move, given his revelation to The Washington Post and CNN that accusations against him had been investigated and found false.In the ensuing years, McCarrick traveled the globe as an unofficial church diplomat, and rumors spread that he had slept with seminarians while a bishop in Metuchen and Newark, New Jersey, using a beach house on the Jersey Shore. Rumors no journalist could pin down.
As the genial, glad-handing cardinal gained a high media profile, he seemed to be almost everywhere, even leading graveside prayers on TV at the funeral for Sen. Edward Kennedy.
And yet, as we now know from the 449-page Vatican report on McCarrick, two New Jersey dioceses had quietly paid settlements to victims by 2007. In 2018, after more lawsuits and survivors spoke out, a Vatican tribunal at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty of moral crimes. Pope Francis approved McCarrick’s laicization, stripping him of priestly status, and ordered an investigation on how McCarrick had avoided detection for so long.
The task of compiling that report fell principally to Jeffrey Lena. Lena is a lawyer based in Berkeley, California, who has defended several cases against the Holy See in U.S. courts on jurisdictional grounds.