VATICAN CITY (FEBRUARY 16, 2019) (REUTERS) – The defrocking of former U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick is a strong signal to the Catholic Church hierarchy that no one is above the law, the Vatican’s top sexual crimes investigator said on Saturday (Febryary 16).
In an exclusive interview with Reuters in the Vatican shortly after the decision was announced, Archbishop Charles Scicluna said it showed that holding bishops accountable for committing or covering up sexual abuse was no longer just talk and that bishops are not above the law.
He is the man Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict dispatched to investigate the most sensitive and notorious sex abuse cases, including that of the Legionaries of Christ religious in Mexico in 2006 and widespread abuse in Chile last year.
The ruling was announced ahead of next week’s meeting at the Vatican between the heads of national Catholic Churches and Vatican officials, including Scicluna, on the global abuse crisis.
Scicluna said the McCarrick decision “will raise a number of questions” about the screening process for candidates for the priesthood as well as candidates to become bishop. He added that “hiding any aspect of a person’s life or lifestyle is a great wound to the integrity of the (selection) process”.
But he also suggested that perhaps the Vatican may have been remiss while McCarrick climbed the clerical ladder. He said it was important “for the Holy See to take information gathered by the local Churches and give that the weight it deserves”.
The Vatican’s condemnation of McCarrick for sexual crimes against adults refers to priests and ex-priests who said he abused his authority to coerce them to sleep with him when they were adult seminarians studying for the priesthood.