3 successive popes were aware of sexual misconduct allegations against disgraced ex-Cardinal McCarrick, Vatican report finds

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American Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was allowed a long career and rise in the church, despite three popes having been aware of the sexual misconduct allegations made against him, a Vatican investigation released Tuesday found. McCarrick was ultimately defrocked by Pope Francis last year after a trial that found the former archbishop of Washington guilty of sexually abusing minors and molesting adults.

The new report "put the lion's share of blame on a dead saint: Pope John Paul II, who appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington D.C. in 2000, despite having commissioned an inquiry that confirmed he slept with seminarians," The Associated Press wrote. While Pope John Paul II ordered the investigation into accusations that McCarrick sexually abused minors and had sexual conduct with another priest in 1987, McCarrick appealed to the pope and his "denial was believed," the report says, with the allegations against him deemed to be mere gossip and rumors.

John Paul II's successor, Pope Benedict XVI, was urged by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò to start church legal proceedings against McCarrick, but rejected the option, deciding instead to "appeal to McCarrick's conscience" and have the archbishop "maintain a lower profile," The New York Times reports, quoting the Vatican's findings.

Pope Francis, who took over after Benedict's retirement in 2013, was not formally given evidence of McCarrick's misconduct until 2017, the investigation found, although he'd apparently been given a heads up about the allegations from top church officials. Francis, however, "did not see the need to alter the approach that had been adopted in prior years" at that time, believing the allegations had already been thoroughly looked into by his predecessors.

In 2018, Viganò issued a expose of McCarrick's abuse and cover-up, in which he claimed Francis had lifted "sanctions" imposed on McCarrick by Benedict to make him an adviser, and called on the pope to resign. However, "no records support Viganò's account and evidence as to what he said is sharply disputed," the investigation said.

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