Figueiredo Report the First of Many to Come?


National Catholic Register, 29 May 2019

COMMENTARY: Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo’s release of information on Theodore McCarrick suggests what a new era of whistleblowing might look like in the Church.

Eleven months after the first revelations about the now-laicized Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a papal interview with a Mexican journalist and revelations from a former secretary have added to what we know, underscoring the importance of the documents that the Vatican is still reviewing in preparation for a public report.

The developments also suggest what a new culture of whistleblowing might look like in the Church after the publication of the Holy Father’s new sexual-abuse norms, Vos Estis Lux Mundi.

In response to a question from the Mexican journalist about the allegations of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Pope Francis emphatically denied that he knew anything about McCarrick’s scandalous behavior before last summer. That comports with a statementreleased in October 2018 by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who stated that he had never spoken to Pope Francis about McCarrick and the various efforts his office had made to restrict his public ministry and travels.

Archbishop Viganò claimed in August 2018 to have told the Holy Father personally about McCarrick in a private meeting in June 2013. In the new interview, Pope Francis says that he does not remember whether Archbishop Viganò told him about the former cardinal or not.

Whatever the Holy Father may or may not have known, excerpts of correspondence published Tuesday by Mgsr. Anthony Figueiredo seem to indicate that the broad outline of what Archbishop Viganò claimed about McCarrick is true.

Msgr. Figueiredo served as McCarrick’s secretary soon after his ordination — by McCarrick himself — in 1994-95. Msgr. Figueiredo then spent most of the next 25 years in Rome and acted as McCarrick’s assistant in Rome, especially after the former cardinal’s retirement in 2006. Msgr. Figueiredo also served as a senior contributor to EWTN News’ Vatican Bureau in 2017 and 2018, until he was arrested on drunken-driving charges in the United Kingdom in October 2018.

According to Msgr. Figueiredo’s materials, Cardinal McCarrick was told in 2008 by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, then the prefect for bishops, to move out of the seminary where he lived in retirement, not to travel to Rome, and not to accept any speaking engagements, public appearances or travel without prior approval from Cardinal Re.

It would be shocking if such extraordinary measures against a cardinal were taken without the approval of Pope Benedict XVI. The monsignor’s materials do not explicitly indicate what Benedict’s role was and what decisions he personally took.

Msgr. Figueiredo released his “report” online, quoting from correspondence from McCarrick that describe a letter from Cardinal Re in 2008 with the restrictions and that McCarrick discussed those restrictions with Archbishop Donald Wuerl, his successor as the archbishop of Washington.

The materials were reviewed by CBS and the Catholic news outlet Crux for authenticity, but the original documents themselves were not made public, though Msgr. Figueiredo suggests that he may do so in the future.

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