Mr. Theodore Edgar McCarrick has been laicized

Communication of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
16 Feb. 2019

“On 11 January 2019, the Congresso of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the conclusion of a penal process, issued a decree finding Theodore Edgar McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., guilty of the following delicts while a cleric: solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power. The Congresso imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state. On 13 February 2019, the Ordinary Session (Feria IV) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith considered the recourse he presented against this decision. Having examined the arguments in the recourse, the Ordinary Session confirmed the decree of the Congresso. This decision was notified to Theodore McCarrick on 15 February 2019. The Holy Father has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law, rendering it a res iudicata (i.e., admitting of no further recourse).”

The CDF determined that former-Cardinal former-Archbishop McCarrick should be dismissed from the clerical state (laicized) on 11 Jan 2019. But McCarrick appealed the sentence, so another session of the CDF was necessary to consider his arguments against the decision. That recourse will probably never be made public, but it would be interesting to see what he could have possibly said in his own defense. In any case, the CDF rejected his appeal on 13 Feb 2019. McCarrick was notified on the 15th. Then Pope Francis confirmed the decision of the CDF.

The Latin term “res judicata” translates as “a thing that has been judged”. The meaning is that the judgment is closed to any further appeal.

The charges were:
* solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession,
* sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults,
* with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.

Solicitation means trying to convince someone to have sex, and this took place in the Confessional, making it an even graver sin. Guilty.

Sins against the 6th Commandment refers to sexual sins of any kind (even though the commandment itself is You shall not commit adultery). The Church considers that all grave sexual sins are closely related to that commandment, as sex is intended by God for use only in marriage. Guilty of multiple counts with adults and with minors.

The aggravating factor was that he was a member of the clergy, first a priest, then a Bishop, then a Cardinal. Misuse of this authority, given to him by Christ through the Church, makes his sins all the more grave. Guilty.

Now that Mr. McCarrick is laicized, he cannot have any kind of pension or other financial support from the Church. However, it has been reported that he has ample financial resources, despite his prior vow or promise of poverty. I think it unlikely that he will continue to life in the Kansas friary, where he has been living, as that would be incompatible with his conviction and his laicization.

How are conservative critics reacting to the laicization of McCarrick? They are criticizing Pope Francis. On Twitter, many persons said “Too little, too late.” And many added calls for the Pope’s resignation. More than a few of these tweets include expressions of malice.

First, how is laicization too little? Removing McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, trying him in the Church’s court, finding him guilty of serious crimes. The Pope could not have done anything more. And McCarrick still faces possible charges in the secular courts. In addition, this action against a Cardinal is unprecedented in modern times.

By comparison, Pope Saint John Paul II promoted McCarrick to Archbishop of Washington, D.C. and made him a Cardinal. Pope Benedict XVI placed limited restrictions on him, which were ineffective. Pope Francis did as much as could be done. You can criticize him for not taking the same actions sooner. But I noticed that, in the book “Good-bye, Good Men”, McCarrick was accused of relatively little, compared to what we now know. And the accusations that Vigano relayed to the Pope were from a priest who was a convicted child abuser, and so not a credible witness.

Undoubtedly, McCarrick had friends in high places in the Church, and they kept the Pope from taking action sooner by lying to the Roman Pontiff, and by withholding information that the Pope had a right and a need to know. Archbishop Vigano should not expect his word alone to decide the fate of a person accused of very serious charges.

Thanks be to God, for the actions taken by Pope Francis against the sex offender, Mr. McCarrick.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian
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