Pope John Paul II Was Warned About Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick

Jen Juneau
·3 min read

Eric VANDEVILLE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Pop John Paul II (L); Theodore McCarrick

An internal Vatican investigation has reportedly concluded that the late Pope John Paul II knew about the sexual-abuse allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick years before his defrocking.

McCarrick, 90, was laicized from the Catholic church in February 2019 by Pope Francis following a history of sexual-abuse allegations against him, including from seminarians and minors. (He had resigned from his cardinalship the previous July.)

According to multiple outlets, including the Associated Press and CNN, the recent internal Vatican investigation found that John Paul was warned about McCarrick's sexual misconduct, but still chose to promote him to Archbishop of Washington in 2000 — a position he held until 2006, after being made Cardinal Priest of Santi Nereo e Achilleo in 2001.

"The summary says John Paul naively believed McCarrick's last-ditch, handwritten denial," the AP reports, adding that the pope appointed McCarrick to archbishop "despite having commissioned an inquiry that confirmed he slept with seminarians."

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Massimo Sambucetti/AP/Shutterstock Pop John Paul II (L); Theodore McCarrick

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According to the AP, the 400-plus-page report reflecting the two-year investigation "found that a series of bishops, cardinals and popes downplayed or dismissed reports that [McCarrick] slept with seminarians, and determined that Pope Francis merely continued his predecessors' naïve handling of the predator until a former altar boy alleged abuse."

Francis, 83, affirmed the decision to defrock McCarrick last year following 60 years of priesthood, after a church trial found him guilty of sexual impropriety.

He had been accused of sexually abusing three minors and harassing adult seminarians, according to The Washington Post, while the AP reported he was also found guilty of soliciting sex during confession.

The Archdiocese of Washington said in a statement to the Post at the time that it hoped the "decision serves to help the healing process for survivors of abuse, as well as those who have experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done."

Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock Theodore McCarrick

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As of September 2018, McCarrick had relocated to a friary in Kansas. Salina, Kansas, Diocese leader Bishop Gerald Vincke told the Post that while he didn't know the exact location of McCarrick's friary, "It's very remote. ... When you’re in the friary, you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere."

The Catholic News Agency reported in January 2020 that McCarrick had moved from the friary "to a residential community of priests who have been removed from ministry," according to senior Church officials.