How McCarricks Occur – Catholic Herald

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US Cardinals (from L) Justin Francis Rigali, Adam Joseph Maida, Edward Michall Egan, Roger Michael Mahony, Francis George, William Henry Keeler and Theodore McCarrick pose at North American College in Rome on April 17, 2005. (GREGORIO BORGIA / AFP via Getty Images)

The brutal fact is that they don't just happen out of nowhere. Rather, McCarricks are the malevolent by-products of a system supposedly designed to create something entirely different: bishops who, according to Canon 378, excel in firm faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, cleverness and humanity are virtues & # 39 ;. While we have no doubt that the system will produce these successfully, it clearly suffers from significant weaknesses.

There are certain things that you don't want to write about. They're too sad, or dirty, or weird to make you feel uncomfortable right in the pit of your stomach. – Theodore McCarrick, "An Unpleasant Job" (2002)

From Savile to Sandusky to Epstein to McCarrick, saying we need to stop thinking of “bad apples” and instead focus our attention on faulty “barrels” has become a cliché. We are sure that bad apples are symptoms rather than the main cause. Our real problems are collaboration, not horticulture.

The basic feeling here is a healthy one up to a point. No man is an island, not even those who (like Epstein) own one. And when it takes a village to raise a child, there are often people in a small town who – in many ways and to varying degrees – are guilty of covering up child abuse.

Furthermore, shared assumptions, practices and guidelines, official or otherwise, lead to organizational cultures in which "bad actors" find it more or less easy to operate, survive and thrive. Ex-Cardinal McCarrick, like the rest of our bad apples, is an accomplished product of his special barrel; its lazy taste, to overstretch our pictures a little, seasoned by decades of barrel conditioning.

However, we do not want to give up all the subtlety of a metaphor that is ultimately first recorded in Chaucer's "Cook's Tale". There, the “proverb” is about the fact that we cannot and should not simply differentiate between individuals and the other contexts in which they sit. Because if the "rotten apple" is allowed to fester, it will ultimately "exterminate all Remenaunte".

This is true.

The corruption of a bad apple is contagious: it infects those closest to it before gradually permeating the entire barrel. At a certain point, simply removing the obviously bad ones is little more than protecting against the turning of others. Because the barrel, which has not been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, is now itself both damaged and damaged.

As with many ancient proverbs, social scientists have only recently begun to recognize the wisdom here – and, of course, extol it as their own hard-won insight. Instead of “cooperology”, however, we prefer fancy terms such as social network analysis, network science, and relational sociology. Despite all of our technical precision, calculation tools and jargon, the underlying idea remains the same.

Barrels affect apples, of course: how big the barrel is, how tightly packed, how good you are at it, who your neighbors are, how regularly the apples are mixed, removed or topped up. But the apples themselves, whether good or bad, influence each other and together the overall barrel environment. While barrels come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials – as whiskey connoisseurs know, outwardly indistinguishable individual barrels can produce subtly different drops – there are significant similarities between them.

This is exactly why they feel a little the same reading synopsis of high profile sexual predators (and we've read more in recent years than is likely sane) to leave kegs behind for a bit. There is little obvious overlap between the worlds of, for example, elite college sports coaching, UK children's television, humanitarian NGOs, Hollywood power broking and Catholic prelates. But when and where serial predators appear in each of them, both they and (critically) those around them often behave in strangely analogous ways.

In this sense, "McCarricks" can be found in many areas of life. Talented, charming and hardworking. Skilled at making friends and influencing people. A penchant for “gathering” the mighty and prestige. Champions of the Right (on) ensure the right time and relentless fundraising drives. You level up quickly with both willingness and ability to make or break careers / dreams / occupations etc of others.

We're not saying that every "McCarrick" always hits every note perfectly, but this is a pretty standard output template. And for very good reasons. In short, these are the very people who others are most willing to dispel the doubt of looking the other way, assuming that there must be an innocent explanation to dismiss all rumors as jealousy and gossip. So, of course, they can get away with it.

Moreover, they are also the people whose overthrow would embarrass many influential people: presidents, popes, princes, police chiefs. Hence the victims' shyness to speak up and / or lack of support or credibility in doing so; the unwillingness of someone with the clout to do serious research; the desire of the institutions to avoid scandals, to find a calm solution, to write checks (sometimes with NDAs attached).

As and when the truth emerges, notice how quickly the blessed rejections are issued: “Friends? No We were never close. Nosiree. I barely met the guy to think about it … I always thought he was "off" something. "Does that sound familiar to you?

When we call such people McCarricks, we are not holding him up as some sort of climax or more like the nadir of the genre. It wasn't him. In fact, our overall point is that McCarricks are not all that extraordinary: there is unfortunately no shortage of parallels we know about and – God knows – others will no doubt follow.

McCarrick himself is a case in point, along with the others we have mentioned.

In that sense, "a McCarrick" is to high-profile predators what "a MacGuffin" is to movie plotters, or "a Karen" to any woman you don't like. However, since our main interest is indeed in episcopal cultures, it immediately makes sense to refer to someone there as "McCarrick". If our main focus had been on the entertainment industry, we would have gone for a Cosby or a Savile to illustrate the same point.

It is important for the Catholic Church to think in the plural in McCarricks. If we have had one to suffer, what can prevent others from being there? Among many lessons that can be drawn from the whole sad spectacle, one certainly is that being a McCarrick (to borrow a concept from game theory) can be an extremely profitable "strategy". McCarrick himself rose to the very top: cardinal, papal confidante, media treasure and friend of politicians and financiers.

Despite all of his personal poverty – as he is not afraid to point out, he never received a salary as Archbishop of Washington – he was never short of fancy dinners, globetrotting where all costs were paid, the use of a beach house or (like we learn from Thinking of You, his collected folk columns – why no, they haven't aged well) people who buy him bigger and bigger boats.

Regardless of the short-term strategy this will prove, there are more difficult ways to go through the earthly days. And he did everything while being a repeated and widely suspected / ignored / tolerated abuser of boys and young men.

As the recent Vatican report makes clear, it wasn't even a terribly difficult strategy for the right person. Success in raising funds and professions, so often the scarcest resources of “church capital” (Tempo Bourdieu and Putnam), covers a wide variety of sins.

Going back to our earlier analogy, this particular apple lived an awfully long time – 42 years from its ordination as auxiliary bishop in 1977 to its defrost in 2019 – in the American Catholic bishop's barrel. Much of that amount of time has also been spent at or near the top: Archbishop since 1986 from two major Estates (Newark and DC) and Cardinal since 2001. These are positions of great influence on who joins the keg in the first place, and whether and how they rise or fall once inside.

Again, bad apples corrupt others.

This does not mean that everyone, most or others who come in contact with them will become as lazy as they are. But even the freshest, healthiest, most resilient apples can start to get sour, at least a little, if they're in the wrong place with the wrong company for too long.

Since we are dealing with popular proverbs, here are a few more: "Birds of a feather flock together" (i.e. how like attracts) and "When a hen lives in the bush, it becomes a partridge" (a Baganda phrase) That is, as a Ugandan priest friend reliably tells me: "You are beginning to resemble those with whom you meet."

Like our selected piece Chaucer, these convey much of what social scientists achieve with obscure terms such as “social selection” and “homophilia”.

Both are also crucial to understanding the dynamics of episcopal appointment and the culture within the Catholic Church. They are crucial in other areas as well: cronyism, old boy networks, and nepotism (a fitting term for McCarrick who named those he cared for as his nephews) are a far cry from problems specific to Catholicism. However, there is good reason to believe that they pose a greater risk within the "clergy caste system" – to steal George Weigel's sentence – than they are or could be anywhere else.

In our view, this is so much of what McCarrick himself did that fixing this issue is a major priority in preventing other potential McCarricks from doing it. The best place to start on this urgent task is to take some time to understand what is really going on. To understand how McCarricks works, we need to dig a little more deeply into various factors, both empirically and theoretically.

We divide the following into two parts. Each re-examines an important element of Uncle Ted's backstory in the light of our and others' reflections on episcopal cultures and with the aim of learning more complete lessons.

Big Apple, bad apples

When bad apples grow other bad apples, it begs an obvious question: Could there have been a rot in the barrel before Theodore McCarrick came along? In other words, did Uncle Ted have an Uncle Ted?

There is certainly an excellent competitor. McCarrick served only directly under two other bishops, both cardinal archbishops of New York and occasional superiors of the military vicariate: Francis Spellman, who ordained him to the priesthood in 1958, and Terence James Cooke, who made him his assistant in 1977, only four years later he was appointed bishop of the new diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey. We shall return to Cooke anon, but a few things must first be set forth.

Credible rumors and indeed on record allegations from various sources have centered on Spellman for decades: a McCarrick-esque twofer with a penchant for young men (from seminarians to seafarers; he was willing to have access to both) and a lack of concern for those Subtleties of "consent".

These aired nearly seventeen years after his death in John Cooney's 1984 biography The American Pope – until the news broke before it was released.

The story goes that after much "conviction" by Cooke's Archdiocese, the New York Times (which owned the editors of the book) insisted that the relevant four pages be cut out and replaced with a few limp sentences mentioning "rumors" . (As some in the Church must ask for "these happy golden years" of episcopal editorial harmony.)

However, the claims of Cooney and many others of similar tastes have continued: there has been no shortage of examples in the scattered works of journalists and scholars over the years. Granted, bright stories can be difficult to separate from factual reports. The two don't have to be mutually exclusive, however. It is noteworthy that, according to McCarrick, outfits in a spectrum from the salon to The American Conservative have begun to take this long-suspected side of Spellman seriously. The truth will come out as they say.

Even if the specific topic of sexual abuse is disregarded, much of Spellman's biography is strangely reminiscent of Teds. There are only four here.

  • An avid networker, not least in Rome, with close ties to a Pope? Spellman's close friend Pius XII. Intervened to give him New York just like (we now know) John Paul II to send McCarrick to DC.
  • An impressive fundraiser with dubious accounting practices? Spellman was a useful way of getting US cash into the Vatican, among other things. His Smaug-esque lust for other people's money will be familiar to fans of Fulton Sheen (the anti-Spellman in every way).
  • A seasoned reader of the political mood? Spellman was the anti-communist par excellence in a time of feverish anti-communism. It served him (and, to be fair, US Catholicism as a whole) very well. At first glance, McCarrick was a very different political animal. But he was also perfectly suited for his time, as his warm relationship with the Bushes and Obamas – and the blatant media coverage of "Team Ted" – clearly demonstrated. Had 2018 never happened, he would certainly have taken pride of place at the inauguration of his longtime friend Joe Biden.
  • The brotherhood of other active homosexual clergy? By its nature, this is much more difficult to establish. However, it is reported that both Spellman and McCarrick had similarly inclined friends in key positions who, in turn, benefited from the favors – plum posts, gifts, confidentialities, monsignor councils – that a kind bishop can easily pay off.

The existence and influence of such "lavender mafias" has long been debated by serious journalists and scholars, including Kenneth Woodward, Richard Sipe, Don Cozzens and Andrew Greeley – none of whom can rightly be accused of being ultra-conservative schills. Furthermore, there are strong theoretical grounds to believe that once such networks are formed, they would have strong incentives to protect and promote their own.

(This problem does not concern the homosexual clergy per se here. But while heterosexually active clergy – of which there have been numerous examples, including within the episcopate – ipso facto have to be active with people outside the clergy, there is potential for homosexual relationships or sharing of secrets between clergymen / seminarians can lead to groups at risk, all of whom have a personal interest in taking care of each other.)

With all of this in mind, it's naturally tempting to create a direct link between Spellman and McCarrick – an orchestrated passing of the torch from one to the other. The latter had the following to say in 2001:

Cardinal Spellman has been a very important person in my life since he ordained me in 1958. Shortly afterwards he sent me to Puerto Rico and then to the Catholic University here in Washington. A few years later, when I became president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, I got an opportunity to get to know him better and he was always very nice to me.

But that's not exactly a smoking weapon. In a nutshell, the search for one of our broader arguments misses. Rather, the world in which Spellman thrived produced not only McCarrick himself, but also the world that enabled him for so long. Of course, by then, the US Church – like the US itself – looked like a very different place, just as McCarrick looked refreshingly like the model of a modern metropolitan compared to Spellman. But looks can be deceptive and apples don't always fall too far from the tree.

This larger point is best expressed with a picture or map.

The following diagram shows a "serving network" of US bishops that includes Spellman, Cooke, and McCarrick, and only the other bishops who have served directly (i.e., in the recent Vatican report that asked for a "ponder." -subordinate "relationship goes) more of it.

The thicker the line, the higher the seniority / responsibility they held. Of the two McCarrick arrows, the thinner one is for Spellman, whom he served as a priest, and the thicker one is for Cooke, of whom he was auxiliary bishop. (There is also a medium thickness, which designates service in a small number of particularly trustworthy roles: e.g. private secretary, vicar general, chancellor.)

The larger the circle with a person's name, the more other bishops on the same network have served among them at one time or another.

The most obvious thing to note here is that Spellman, Cooke, and McCarrick had many "alumni" who became bishops themselves. Around three quarters served one or more of them either as auxiliary bishop or as "executive staff". Also note that McCarrick served both Spellman and Cooke, which means that all of the other sitter portrayed are close ecclesiastical of his. In terms of the family tree, it has the episcopal equivalents of 27 "sons" and 56 "brothers".

Now, the fact that only three cardinals would be so episcopally fertile is not entirely surprising: all of them held major tours for a long time, and similarly sized "dynasties" cluster around other major Catholic centers (including Boston, Spellman's own home diocese). What it does show, however, is the relative ease with which a single influential kingmaker – a McCarrick – can “stack” the episcopate. Many of them will inevitably be his own protégés and favorites, who in turn tend to help their fellow human beings and are jointly involved in protecting their patrons from loyalty or naked self-interest.

Note, for example, McCarrick's willingness to establish an esprit de corps among his clerical "nephews" and the fact that several have ended up in "useful" positions to protect his reputation. The McCarrick report has a hell of a “textbook instance” for just that: Two of his Newark aides, Smith and McHugh, see him sexually assault a young priest and say nothing. McHugh then shrugged and explained to another priest: "Sometimes the archbishop says things and does things that are very" different "." Years later, both denied the nuncio any knowledge of their mentor's sexual misconduct (which paved the way for his appointment) after DC), and Smith would sign a five-digit settlement with one of his victims.

Even without church realpolitik, a bishop necessarily learns a great deal of “episcopal art” from the model of the bishop under whom he has served. Aside from taking a Baby Bishop School crash course when they are first appointed head of a diocese, what a bishop is doing and / or can get away with is primarily learned from the example of those among whom he has served.

An important role in the law firm, a spell as a private secretary and / or an experience as an assistant thus act as a real teaching. This does not have to be a problem in and of itself. However, it is easy to see how harmful modi operandi or the normalization of problematic behaviors, for example, can easily spread in certain regions as a certain cadre of bishops becomes "institutional bearers" of the norms and traditions that they have learned (or learned) to tolerate).

McCarrick himself was fairly frank about the basic mechanism at work here, and was obviously proud to have his own "alumni", "nephews" and "grandchildren" – all his own sentences, disgusting enough – hold prestigious posts. Hence, it is not difficult to see how a system that can create one McCarrick can easily create several more. Or, indeed, how a bishop who is not a McCarrick himself – like the vast majority, graciously not – can still pass on some "recessive genes" to the next generation.

That brings us neatly to Cardinal Cooke.

Biscuit monster?

Terence James Cooke, "Cookie" to his friends, seems to be an obvious counterexample to the image we are presenting. Shy, retired, and on the official road to holiness, he certainly wasn't a McCarrick. And yet he too climbed to the top of the barrel.

First of all, as we have stressed several times, we are emphatically not saying that every apple is rotten. We're also not saying that only bad apples will rise. The concern isn't that everyone is or would be a McCarrick if given half a chance. We are concerned that there are identifiable flaws in the system of episcopal culture and promotions that McCarricks can and has all too easily exploited. In addition, otherwise good and virtuous bishops can inadvertently help empower those who are truly not disastrous.

Cooke is arguably the figurehead for this phenomenon. Consecrated by Spellman in 1945, it quickly made an impression. In 1957 Spellman made him his secretary, a role which he held (in addition to ever larger tasks) until December 1965, after which he became auxiliary bishop and vicar general. Less than two and a half years later, he was installed as archbishop – what appears to be Spellman's dying wish. As the New York Times would recall in 1986, "Liberal priests grumbled that the appointment was the final act of the cardinal's cronyism … seminarians joked that the succession was" the first soul transplant ever recorded ".

Regardless, before the decade was up, Cooke received a red hat. At this point Cooke had found his own protégé. In 1971 Mgr. McCarrick became his secretary. (Incidentally, it was during this time, as the Vatican report shows, that McCarrick learned from Cardinal Cooke the importance of giving gifts to others within the Church, which he presumably took up from Spellman.) He held the office until 1977. when it was his turn to get promoted, up and (not that far at all).

As McCarrick herself later noted, "a good secretary … has to live my life." Cooke, eight years in the role, and McCarrick, six years in the role, certainly were. Now recall what can be "plausibly guessed" about aspects of Spellman's life. Also, remember that throughout his tenure as Cooke's right-wing man, McCarrick actively abused minors, frequently took other school-age nephews on overnight trips, and already had a reputation for keeping an eye out for the seminarians.

It is not impossible that, while Cooke lived close to both of them, luckily he knew nothing of anything that was "suspicious" at any point in time.

(If that seems hard to believe, fear not – the McCarrick report again shows numerous precedents among McCarrick's own subordinates who now hold high ecclesiastical office.)

But if he didn't, shouldn't he have it?

Significantly, according to Cooke's official biography, his few mistakes included: "He seldom confronted people, and when he did it was evident that he was feeling very uncomfortable" and "He found it difficult to imagine a person might have bad motives … "He tended to dismiss mistakes as human weaknesses. The expression "culpable naivety" comes into play here. And luckily for those promoting Cooke's cause, he wouldn't be the only canonized saint to have suffered a dire case from it.

With that in mind, it may be worthwhile to reconsider some aspects of Cooks in a more surprising way to many who knew him. Less than five months after the Cardinal's funeral in October 1986 and two days before John O'Connor was named his successor, McCarrick officially wrote to ask him to initiate the process. As Kenneth Woodward reports in Making Saints in the 1990s, (McCarrick) had already discussed the matter with half a dozen colleagues from O'Connor in the Archdiocese of New York, all of whom had served as either Cooke or Spellman as personal secretaries and auxiliary bishops or rank Monsignori & # 39 ;. O’Connor himself served as Naval Chaplain under Spellman and later as Cooke's Assistant Bishop in the Military Vicariate. He was duly committed and opened the matter in October.

If, in retrospect, the circumstances surrounding Cooke's "Shotgun Cause" feel a bit dubious, it's worth noting that it seemed that way at the time. So Woodward in 1990:

Many priests in the archdiocese were simply not convinced of Cooke's holiness and were accordingly skeptical of O'Connor's motives. Another example of cronyism, they believed, had long shaped the way things were administered in the New York Archdiocese. In their view, the cause was a presumptuous campaign by some close friends and protégés of Spellman and Cooke … and aimed at reaching more than a few critics in order to ultimately obtain a posthumous blessing for the entire era of New York church politics.

According to the Holy See, "Vatican officials were surprised that some thoughts (Cooke) were worthy of canonization," and raised eyebrows at the vigorous publicity and publicity that O'Connor, McCarrick and the others put into Had set gear & # 39 ;. Regardless of Cooke's inner sanctity, we know McCarrick's ability to sly advance his own deviant interests.

He is also aware of the protective and reputational value of having friends who are real or perceived. For example, when he thinks of you, he often falls subtly into "I was ordained a bishop … by the servant of God, Terence Cardinal Cooke". Perhaps it all feels like the product of church-weary cynicism created by thinking too long about all sorts of McCarricks. Maybe. However, raising such questions is certainly not a phenomenon that will be beneficial in retrospect after 2018.


Where is that for us? Hopefully with a new perspective on the underlying “socio-logic” behind the rise and the seemingly untouchable nature of Theodore McCarrick for too long – and with it a better awareness of how other McCarricks can and have happened.

The brutal fact is that they don't just happen out of nowhere. Rather, McCarricks are the malevolent byproducts of a system supposedly designed to create something entirely different: bishops who, according to Canon 378, excel in outstanding faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, cleverness and humanity, virtues & # 39 ;. While we have no doubt that the system will produce these successfully, it clearly suffers from significant weaknesses.

McCarrick, in turn, was part and a product of that system: and a skilled player in it.

But he wasn't a one-off character with exceptional skills in terms of charm and deception. It may be comforting to think so, but it is also deeply dangerous. He had talents, sure, and he used them to play the system for his own purposes. But it was a system that kept proving to be all too playable. Ein Großteil von McCarricks schwarzer Magie beruhte im Wesentlichen auf einem Zwei-Bit-Grift: Spenden und Berufungen können Ihnen eine Menge Leute kaufen, die bereit, in der Tat eifrig sind, das Beste in Ihnen zu sehen.

Wir haben uns mit Spellman als plausiblem Proto-McCarrick befasst (man könnte McCarrick auch als Spellman der letzten Tage bezeichnen), aber er ist keineswegs das einzige Beispiel. Die Leser werden zum Beispiel die verschiedenen Untersuchungen – hauptsächlich der Washington Post und später des offiziellen Berichts der Kirche – zu Michael Bransfield, dem beschämten Ex-Bischof von Wheeling-Charleston, finden, der unheimlich an vieles erinnert, was wir hier untersucht haben.

Bransfield war der "sehr fähige und herausragende Rektor des (nationalen) Schreins" (Thinking of You) während McCarricks ersten vier Jahren in DC, bevor er zum Episkopat erhoben wurde. Obwohl Bransfield niemals McCarricks direkter Untergebener war (er war von einer anderen Diözese „ausgeliehen“, daher seine Abwesenheit von unserer Netzwerkkarte), ist er ein weiterer Schützling von Ted, der seine Weihe durchführte. Es stimmt, Bransfield hat es nie zum Erzbischof oder Kardinal geschafft. Aber dann kann nicht jeder Gangboss der Mr Big von Chicago oder New York sein. Vielleicht ein Kleinstadt-McCarrick (mit Entschuldigungen an Wheeling und Charleston), aber trotzdem ein McCarrick.

Aber machen Sie keinen Fehler: McCarrick war nicht der erste und wir bezweifeln stark, dass Bransfield der letzte sein wird.

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