The Summer of 2018 may well be remembered as the "Weeks of Rage" among U.S. Catholics, as sordid disclosures erupted in the media about the decades-long career of serial sex predator Theodore Mc Carrick, 88. The recently deposed cardinal is credibly accused of homosexual predation on boys starting at age 11, teens, seminarians and young priests.
Now, after weeks of explosive revelations — and paradoxically, almost complete silence from the secular media — McCarrick has resigned from the College of Cardinals, according to the Vatican.
Pope Francis "ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial."
"Accepting the resignation" of a man like this, however, does not sit well with many Catholics. Why?
"Something cannot be accepted without it first being freely offered. That is more of an arrangement suggesting that terms are agreed upon between parties. It allows a person to publicly maintain their dignity, sparing them in their act of relinquishment," one clerical observer who declined to be named pointed out. "When someone is stripped of their office, it is clear to all that it is taken. The consent of the subject isn't necessary and there's an acknowledgment that their conduct in office was dishonorable, and that the authority disapproves."
The Pope also did not address the question of why it is that McCarrick's career was so long and successful when his behavior was an open secret in the hierarchy and among the mainstream media.
Reaction was swift among the Catholic rank-and-file to all of this. For many, the Pope's move did nothing to mitigate their fury:
Why didn't Pope Francis contact the authorities in Washington, D.C., New York, and New Jersey to have him indicted, open an investigation, look for more victims, defrock him from all priestly abilities/duties/support/benefits? In my opinion, Pope Francis and every Cardinal/Archbishop/Bishop/Priest/Nun//Administrator who had any knowledge of these crimes against humanity are accomplices and should also be defrocked and charged and lose all benefits. -Kathleen Clough, Cambridge, Maryland
"I hadn't heard until just now, but it makes me think of using air freshener to get rid of a cockroach infestation." -Laurie Kane, archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Some non-Americans were cautiously optimistic:
"It is only a first step. The Vatican & USCCB must be in total chaos just now. Good. May God bring about purity from this chastisement, and let us pray for the weaker brethren, that such satanic scandals do not push them away from God and the Church." -Sean MacIntaylor, Nova Scotia, Canada
"The interesting, and dare I hope, promising, aspect is that on accepting it, the ex-Cardinal was effectively remanded into custody without bail, pending trial." -Gerry Hunter, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Overall, however, these extreme reactions were in a distinct minority. Most Catholics were deeply cynical and — a new development — very guarded about their pocketbooks.
"This tired attempt at damage control just isn't going to cut it anymore." -Anita Thomer, Salina, Oklahoma
"They're hoping he can be a single fall guy and tell us all 'Nothing more to see here, we've handled the problem. Move along now.' It's obvious the problem is larger." -Abby Skradski, Omaha, Nebraska
"Why do I have the feeling this is just an appeasement move to (they hope) keep us quiet? What would give me any reason to be cynical about this?" -Dan Garcia, Agawam, Massachusetts
"Another veneer of justice, another false front, and yet another insult to the authority and power of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man. Psalm 42." -Zachary Scott, archdiocese of Los Angeles
"T-O-K-E-N — that's the word. Will one old man (pardon the uncharitable words) be a start — the beginning — or will it merely be a token sacrifice? I'm not confident. It took a month after all." -Michele Inman, Carolina Beach, North Carolina
"Window dressing. The minimum required. The one percent." -Daniel Page, Omaha, Nebraska
"I'd rather he be stripped of his place." -Andrea Allen, New Jersey
"He needs to be stripped of his office, not allowed to quietly retire!" -Marie Roche, Jasper, Georgia, archdiocese of Atlanta
Prelates who assume that their flock is distracted or uninterested in the scandal are sadly mistaken, however. Catholics appear to be watching developments closely.
Have you ever watched those animal videos where penguins crowd the edge of the cliff, all needing to get into the water to feed, yet fearing the presence of orcas and leopard sharks? McCarrick's *sigh — resignation — sigh* reminds me of that. He is the first one off the cliff, to test the waters. Eventually, all will plunge in, they must, but who will survive? If they all jump in together, some may survive while others may not. They have abased themselves to their animal natures. and will attempt to take innocent and guilty with them. I worry that if we are too aggressive, they will hide deeper in the crowds and let the smaller ones be "sacrificed." -Marie Alsbergas, Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
"How this incident is managed may go a long way in helping to reform the Catholic hierarchy — or not." -Joe Joseph, Sacramento, California
We moved to the Archdiocese of Louisville from overseas, when the revelations concerning sexual abuse were at its height. It shocks me to my core. It took me two years to mentally be able to separate "the Church" and the abusers. What hit me most is not that it happened (we live in a fallen world after all) but that it was swept under rugs, that abusers were moved to prevent discovery and shield them from prosecution. I don't know how many times I have thought about leaving and have my spiritual needs filled elsewhere. I do however have a very stubborn streak in me, and I'll be damned if I leave my church and make room for the perverts and their machinations. -Elisabeth Suarez, diocese of Peoria, Illinois
Probably most Catholics think this crisis is far from their personal experience. But is this true? Check and see.
Republished with permission from Regina Magazine.