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Saunders and Walker
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I haven’t commented on the much anticipated publication of the McCarrick Report because it fails to offer conclusions.  As an advocate for sexual abuse survivors for two decades, I looked forward to reading the Report and gaining insight into the McCarrick saga.  However, I came away from the Report disappointed and underwhelmed.

It’s a lengthy piece (449 pages) that offers timelines and the names of key players involved in McCarrick’s rise and eventual downfall, but it offers no conclusions.  The first responses to the Report noted that it was highly critical of the previous two popes (John Paul II and Benedict) while leaving Francis virtually unscathed.  The later critiques of the McCarrick Report are more balanced and nuanced.  They deal with the impact of the Report and its relation to the ongoing problem of sexual abuse of minors in the church.

One analysis in particular is helpful.  It comes from a Catholic priest who has had experience dealing with sex abuse as a priest and in his former work as an investigator.  Father John Lavers, a Canadian priest of the Diocese of Portsmouth in England, currently serves as the director of chaplaincy with Stella Maris (Apostleship of the Sea) in the United Kingdom. He led a 2012 investigation into allegations of homosexual behavior and activity at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Connecticut that led to the removal of 13 seminarians, primarily from the Archdiocese of Hartford and Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey.  Prior to becoming a priest, Father Lavers served in Canadian law enforcement and national security work.

Lavers notes that, “I think the expectation of the report may have been overstated, even over-expected by people. It’s a report that would not be classified as investigative, but more of a gathering of data and analysis — almost like how you would approach an academic function: looking at the documents that the Vatican archives would have, as well as other information that they would have pulled from the various dioceses of the United States. But it’s not an investigative report.

And when I use the term ‘investigative report,’ I use it from the perspective of how professional law enforcement, and/or intelligence services, would do, say, an investigation into this and in following all the leads as well as following the evidence. This report does not do that.”

The fact that the Report is replete with detailed footnotes makes it read like an academic paper rather than a forensic investigation.  This observation begs the question “Why would the author (supposedly Jeffrey Lena, a US lawyer who defended the Vatican against sex abuse lawsuits a few years ago) write in such a style?  Its length and style obscure and diminish a document that would be intended to be investigative.  If the reader is seeking the truth, this document will frustrate.

Lavers concludes that since the Report conjures up more questions than it answers a truly independent forensic investigation led by law enforcement professionals who have no association with the Catholic Church would be a good idea.

In summary, the words of Winston Churchill come to mind when pondering the impact of the McCarrick Report, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”  If any investigation of McCarrick is going to be fruitful and instructive in dealing with the problem of sexual abuse, we need a real investigation that leads to the truth.

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