Last week, the former prince of the Catholic Church, Theodore McCarrick appeared in a Dedham MA criminal court room to answer charges that he had sexually molested a minor boy 50 years ago. As expected, he pled not guilty. The presiding judge ordered $5,000 bail, revocation of his passport, and no contact with any minor whatsoever.
CBS News spoke with a former colleague of the once powerful cardinal prior to the court proceedings. CBS News Vatican consultant Monsignor Anthony Figuereido worked as McCarrick’s secretary for 20 years, and he spoke to him shortly before Friday’s arraignment.
“The first thing he said is: ‘I do not want to end my life in this way.’ So, he expects something serious to come from this trial, perhaps imprisonment. Even more stunning: ‘I want my priesthood back.’ It’s almost as if he was deluded about the damage he has caused to victims, above all, but also to the church and the loss of faith of millions of Catholics,” Figuereido said.
Some of what Monsignor Figuereido relates may due to advanced age. However, more than likely, McCarrick displayed a typical response of a once-powerful man who used his influence to molest scores of children over four decades. His words to Figuereido that “I do not want to end my life in this way” and “I want my priesthood back” demonstrates a thorough lack of understanding of what he did with his life. There are no signs of remorse or repentance. Rather, he is focused on how this impacts his life.
At 91 years old, one would think that a man who had spent his life in the church would recognize the horrors he committed, the lives he ruined, and the devastation he has wrought on the faith lives of so many ordinary Catholics. Yet, perhaps it is too awful for him to contemplate.
McCarrick’s conversation with his former secretary reveals something to all of us about human nature. When faced with behavior that is abhorrent, we don’t want to admit the truth. This is nothing new. We can recall the story of King David from the Hebrew Scriptures. David spotted a beautiful woman one day while strolling in his palace. He became smitten with her and decided to follow his lust. He slept with the married woman (Bathsheba), had her husband (Uriah) killed on the battlefield and thought nothing of it until confronted with the reality of his acts by the prophet Nathan. Initially, David didn’t recognize that Nathan was talking about the King himself when he related a story to him so as to compel David to recognize his behavior. It wasn’t until Nathan shouted to David, “You are that man” that David repented of his sin. The words of his own repentance are recorded in Psalm 50.
It appears Theodore McCarrick hasn’t arrived at that point yet. While no one can know the depths of the human heart, his words to his secretary reveal a man who has not yet come to appreciate what he has done. Perhaps in facing these criminal charges and the scores of civil lawsuits McCarrick will come to an understanding that he won’t get his priesthood back (nor should he) but how he ends his life is up to him. Those whom he abused, those who have lost their faith because of his behavior, and the embattled Catholic Church need him to admit what he did and seek forgiveness. He surely doesn’t deserve anything from those he ruined in this life. However, as a former cleric of the Catholic Church, perhaps McCarrick still believes in the next life. That is his only hope. Perhaps then he will stop worrying about how he ends this life and worry about the next one, if he still believes what he used to preach.
Admitted to practice law in all federal multidistrict litigation courts, the California State Bar and the Florida Bar. His philosophy is to provide aggressive, quality representations and seek fair compensation for individuals and their families who have suffered injury, death, or sexual abuse.