Welcome back to the tidal wave of sexual abuse allegations currently sweeping the Catholic church: Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has tendered his resignation to the pope weeks after he was removed from the ministry following an investigation into an allegation that he sexually abused a 16-year-old. This comes weeks after a New York Times report found multiple claims of decades-long sexual abuse by the cardinal, who had positioned himself as a reformer in the 2002 sexual abuse crisis.
The New York Times’s previous report detailed multiple accounts of the cardinal bringing seminary students and young priests to a vacation house or to his apartment where he would instruct one of them to sleep in his bed. All the while, the cardinal received steady promotions, despite several reports submitted to bishops and Pope Benedict XVI of sexual abuse, warnings made to higher-ups by fellow members of the church, as well as two settlements paid to accusers by two New Jersey dioceses. In the latest report, one man claims that the cardinal abused him for decades, beginning when he was just 11 years old.
And even while a string of complaints were launched against him (those reviewed by the Times range from 1994-2008), the cardinal publicly embarked on a PR tour promising “zero-tolerance” of then-freshly-uncovered endemic sexual abuse in the church. The Washington Post deemed him “the man of the hour,” and at the time, he’d promised reporters that “[a]nyone in the future who would [sexually abuse] a child or a youngster, then that is it.” The Times notes that McCarrick even helped to draft the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which does not apply to people over 18 or assign meaningful punishment to abusers.
The Vatican faces a sweep of prominent sexual abuse cases at the moment. Australian Cardinal George Pell, the third-highest ranking Vatican official, is currently awaiting trial for charges of sexual abuse; last year the Vatican sentenced a Vatican diplomat to five years in prison for possessing child pornography; nuns are bringing their own #MeToo movement; and Pope Francis is cleaning house in the Chilean Catholic church after another recent unearthing of widespread pedophilia and sexual abuse.