Would Cardinal McCarrick Have Followed Canon Law on Distributing Holy Communion If He Had Not Been a Sexual Abuser?
Would a Cardinal without Cardinal McCarrick's tragic sexual abuse history have shared that letter and perhaps changed history for the better?
The scandalous news that Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick sexually abused a 16-year old altar server almost fifty years ago raises an important question: Were Cardinal McCarrick's discomfort with denying Holy Communion to pro-abortion "Catholic" politicians and his decision in 2004 not to share Pope Benedict's letter on the subject of fitness to receive Holy Communion with his fellow United States bishops at a meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops the result of his sexual abuse of that 16-year old altar server and/or two subsequent settlements of sexual abuse claims by adults?
"On June 20, 2018, McCarrick was removed from public ministry by the Holy See after a review board of the Archdiocese of New York found 'credible and substantiated' an allegation that he sexually abused a 16-year-old altar boy while a priest in New York. Patrick Noaker, the attorney for the anonymous complainant, alleges two incidents at St. Patrick's Cathedral, one in 1971 and the other in 1972. Noaker states that when measuring the teen for a cassock, McCarrick 'unzipped [the boy's] pants and put his hands in the boy’s pants.'
"McCarrick says that he is innocent, saying: 'In obedience I accept the decision of The Holy See, that I no longer exercise any public ministry.' On the same day, Cardinal Joseph William Tobin of Newark revealed that during McCarrick's ministry in New Jersey, there had been accusations of sexual misconduct with three adults, and that two of the allegations resulted in settlements with the complainants.
"According to both Julia Duin and Rod Dreher, a story detailing McCarrick's abuse of adult seminarians was scheduled to run in The New York Times Magazine in 2012, which included court documents of the legal settlements between McCarrick and former seminarians, and an interview with one of the victims. However, the publication ultimately chose not to publish the story."
Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/theodore-mccarricks-removal-shows-the-catholic-church-may-be-taking-sexual-abuse-more-seriously/2018/06/21/ead11364-74d1-11e8-9780-b1dd6a09b549_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.226cfe6bfadf):
"'CREDIBLE AND substantiated.'" That was the finding of a Catholic Church investigation into allegations that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, sexually abused a minor almost 50 years ago....
"The cardinal has been removed from the public ministry at the direction of Pope Francis following investigation by the Archdiocese of New York into charges he abused a teenager while he was a priest in New York. The 87-year-old cardinal, who served as Washington’s archbishop from 2001 to 2006, said in a statement that he had no recollection of the incident and believes in his innocence, but that he accepted the Vatican’s decision. He may face other punishment from the church but is unlikely to face criminal charges because New York state law does not allow victims of child sexual abuse to press charges after they turn 23.
"The allegations, which became known to the church through its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program to resolve sexual-abuse claims and compensate victims, involve a 16-year-old boy, now in his early 60s, who said he was twice molested while an altar server at special Christmas services. A statement from the Archdiocese of Newark, where Mr. McCarrick also served, said it had never received complaints that he had abused a minor but there were decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct with adults; two of them resulted in settlements."
At last the abuse of a sixteen-year old altar server at special Christmas services was acknowledged and punished by the Vatican.
Questions come to mind, from why New York Times covered for Cardinal McCarrick as well as Harvey Weinstein.
Let's see in the Public Editor of New York Times looks into that.
Meanwhile, this very belated news about Cardinal McCarrick calls for a second look at his decision in 2004 not to share a letter with his fellow United States bishops from Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) about canon law on distribution of Holy Communion.
Would a Cardinal without Cardinal McCarrick's tragic sexual abuse history have shared that letter and perhaps changed history for the better?
As I wrote in 2009 in "Raymond Arroyo exposes the Ted Kennedy-as-devout-Catholic myth" (www.renewamerica.com/columns/gaynor/090901):
"...people who watched Senator Kennedy's wake, funeral Mass and burial were deliberately led to believe that Senator Kennedy was a devout Catholic, not a Catholic deviate.
"Raymond Arroyo, News Director of the Eternal Word Television Network and Mother Angelica biographer, not only was not fooled, but compellingly called attention to the con game in an awesome article titled 'TED KENNEDY: THE CATHOLIC LEGACY AND THE LETTERS' and dated August 31, 2009.
"Arroyo: 'What most in the media and the public fail to recognize is that this entire spectacle — the Catholic funeral trappings and the wall to wall coverage — was only partially about Ted Kennedy. It was truly about cementing the impression, indeed catechizing the faithful, that one can be a Catholic politician, and so long as you claim to care about the poor, you may licitly ignore the cause of life. The "Common Ground" argument was reinforced this weekend — the notion that supporting a host of "social justice" initiatives somehow cancels out or trumps the "grave," "intrinsic" evil of abortion and the Catholic commitment to the life issues. As the Pope [Pope Benedict] has described in his letter of 2004, and subsequently, this is an untenable position no matter how many "pro-choice" Catholics on the right or the left attempt to make it.'
"It's not surprising that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick played a key role in the attempted deception."
In 2004, in "Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick: More Concerned with 'Comfort' than Christ" (https://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=1125), I pointed out that then Cardinal McCarrick had disregarded canon law on distribution of Holy Communion because, to use his word, he had become "uncomfortable" with following the applicable canon law.
"On April 23, 2004, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, explained at a press conference in Rome that unrepentant pro-abortion 'Catholic' politicians should be denied Communion. Cardinal Arinze put it succinctly: 'If they should not receive, then they should not be given.' He was following the mandate of Canon 915, which specifies that [t]hose...who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.'
"Nevertheless, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the most prominent Catholic clergyman in the United States and chairman of the task force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, then declared that Cardinal Arinze had not really said what he said and he (Cardinal McCarrick) had 'not gotten to the stage where [he's] comfortable in denying the Eucharist.'"
I pointed out that Cardinal McCarrick had changed:
"In 1995 then Archbishop of Newark McCarrick appeared comfortable with the concept of obeying canon law. He issued a soundly reasoned, elegantly written pastoral letter on penance. The kind of letter than indicated a promotion to Cardinal was in order.
"Cardinal McCarrick rightly wrote in that letter: 'We know that anyone who is aware of having committed a grave sin may not receive Holy Communion, even if he or she experiences deep contrition, without having first received absolution in the Sacrament of Penance. This is true unless the person has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession, a situation which does not apply in the area of the Archdiocese of Newark....
"Significantly, Cardinal McCarrick faithfully noted in his letter that abortion is a 'grave' sin and a 'crime against innocent life.' He asserted, too generously, that '[w]e all recognize that it is a grave evil to take an innocent human life' and astutely observed that '[w]e tend to find excuses.'
"Sadly, Cardinal McCarrick has found an excuse for the sin of disregarding Canon 915 and knowingly giving Communion to pro-abortion nominally Catholic politicans: personal uncomfortableness.
"The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, left no room for each bishop to adopt his own policy on giving and refusing Communion in Ecclesia de Eucharistia:
'[I]n cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin" are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion" ....'
"This was reiterated in Cardinal Ratzinger's recent confidential memorandum to Cardinal McCarrick and Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the 'General Principles' with respect to 'Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion.'
"In that memorandum, delivered as guidance for the meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last month, Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1981, stated succinctly, emphatically and unambiguously as follows:
"1. Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgement regarding one's worthiness to do so, according to the Church's objective criteria, asking such questions as: 'Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?' The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction 'Redemptionis Sacramentum,' nos. 81, 83).
"2. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorise or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a 'grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. [...] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it' (no. 73). Christians have a 'grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. [...] This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it' (no. 74).
"3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.
"4. Apart from an individuals's judgement about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).
"5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person's formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church's teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.
"6. When 'these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,' and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, 'the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it' (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration 'Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics' , nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person's subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person's public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin."
"Cardinal McCarrick apparently neglected to provide a copy of Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum to his fellow bishops during their meeting last month and instead told them that what to do about nominally Catholic pro-abortion politicians seeking Communion was a discretionary matter for them to handle as they thought best.
"Instead of providing copies for each bishop to consider with due care, Cardinal McCarrick told his fellow United States bishops, in emphatic terms, that 'Cardinal Ratzinger clearly leaves to us as teachers, pastors and leaders WHETHER to pursue this path' of denying Communion. 'The question for us is not simply whether denial of Communion is possible, but whether it is pastorally wise and prudent,' Cardinal McCarrick said. The full text of Cardinal McCarrick's speech to the bishops is posted at the bishops' Web site, www.usccb.org.
"Cardinal McCarrick reported to the conference that their task force on politics believes 'the battles for human life and dignity and for the weak and vulnerable should be fought not at the Communion rail, but in the public square.' He warned of 'serious unintended consequences' in refusing Communion, including danger that faithful Catholic politicians who courageously stand for moral principles might be perceived as yielding to pressure from the Church hierarchy while 'weak leaders who bend to the political winds...are perceived as courageous resisters of episcopal authority.'
"The 'each bishop decides for his diocese' approach carried, with 183 of 189 voting in favor.
"However, it is surely questionable, if not highly doubtful, that the bishops' conference would have approved a policy of allowing each bishop to decide whether to give Communion to pro-choice politicians, as though canon law depends upon geography or whim, if they had been aware of Cardinal Ratzinger's compelling conclusion that denial of Communion is obligatory 'regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia.'
"The release of Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum to the media should prompt the United States bishops to reconsider their position as soon as possible instead of waiting for their next regularly scheduled meeting in November, AFTER the United States elections.
"Cardinal McCarrick commented, 'From what I have heard, it may represent an incomplete and partial leak of a private communication from Cardinal Ratzinger, and it may not accurately reflect the full message I received.'
"But the memorandum was released in full and is unambiguous and consistent with what both Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Arinze have said.
"Cardinal McCarrick and the rest of the clergy need to follow Christ and canon law, not to coddle the powerful nominally Catholic pro-abortion politicians.
"As Archbishop [now Cardinal] Raymond L. Burke put it in his statement on Catholic Politicians and Bishops made on June 17, 2004: 'Right reason...tells us that a bishop, if he truly cares for the flock, must admonish Catholic politicians "who choose to depart from church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life" regarding "the consequences for their own spiritual well being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin" (Living the Gospel of Life, No. 32).' In addition, 'if the Catholic politician does not recognize the lack of the proper disposition to receive Communion, then the church herself must refuse the sacrament, in order to safeguard the worthy reception of the sacrament and to prevent a serious scandal among the faithful.'
"Because, in the words of Archbishop Burke: 'For a bishop or any pastor to exclude someone from Communion is always a source of great sorrow....What would be profoundly more sorrowful would be the failure of a bishop to call a soul to conversion, the failure to protect the flock from scandal and the failure to safeguard the worthy reception of Communion.'"
Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.
Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.
The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.
Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.