I applaud Commonweal for keeping a glaring spotlight on Theodore McCarrick (“The Case of Theodore McCarrick,” November 9). His case, I believe, has the potential of being the most significant disclosure in the sordid, unfolding history of the Catholic Church’s sexual-abuse scandal. But I am still waiting for someone to connect all the dots. As the McCarrick story was emerging this summer, I was reading Reporter, the Seymour Hersch memoir. Where’s Sy Hersh when we need him, I thought. Where is the dogged investigative reporter who can blow the lid off the McCarrick case? To date, only one side of the story is getting attention. The McCarrick case is not just about sex. His story demonstrates the full ugliness of the scandal because it involves the intersection of sex and money in the Catholic Church.
Why did Theodore McCarrick rise so far and so fast in the church? Because he was a superb fundraiser. The public record on McCarrick’s relationship with one of his key donors strongly suggests that a reporter with Hersh’s investigative skills would find evidence that McCarrick’s money morality was no better that his sexual morality. During McCarrick’s time as leader of the Archdiocese of Newark, a leading “benefactor” of the archdiocese and two related organizations (Seton Hall University and St. Benedict’s Prep) was Robert Brennan, founder of First Jersey Securities. I place the word “benefactor” in quotes because we now know Brennan was a fraud. Despite a plea for leniency from McCarrick, one of Brennan’s few character witnesses, the financier eventually spent eight years in a federal prison after being convicted of securities and bankruptcy fraud. A generous view of McCarrick’s role in these frauds would be that he was guilty of nothing more than accepting tainted money. But what would a sharp investigative reporter find if the McCarrick-Brennan relationship were re-examined? How would such a reporter describe the alchemy Brennan used to transform securities of dubious worth into high fliers? Did McCarrick and other beneficiaries know how integral they were to the Brennan fraud when they accepted stock donations and then converted the gifts into cash through less-than-arm’s-length sales, thereby establishing false valuations?
We now know McCarrick’s fellow bishops were willing to give him a pass for his sexual behavior. What’s needed is a thorough examination of the other side of the bargain: the piles of money he raised for the church. How much of that was as dirty as the games he played in his now notorious beach house?
INSULT TO INJURY
In his article about Theodore McCarrick, Boniface Ramsey suggests that the ultimate punishment would be to reduce McCarrick to lay status. This is a further insult to the laity. McCarrick’s sin was committed against the laity (seminarians are laity until taking orders); then the compensation to the victim was paid out of the laity’s charitable contributions, and in some areas their parish churches and schools were surrendered; the cleric was sent to a place to live a life of prayer and penance at the laity’s expense. This was all done without any input from the laity. By the way, the clergy had the laity pray for forgiveness when the scandal emerged. To say removing McCarrick from the clerical life is sufficient punishment is one more insult to lay Catholics who have been faithful to the church.