From The Boston Pilot by Ed Condon Jan. 8, 2019
Analysis: The non-trial of Theodore McCarrick
Vatican City, Jan 7, 2019 CNA “Sources at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have confirmed that allegations against McCarrick are being considered through an abbreviated approach called “an administrative penal process.”
That decision gives insight into the strength of evidence against McCarrick, and suggests that resolving sexual abuse allegations against the archbishop is a top priority for Pope Francis and other senior Vatican officials.
Canon Law outlines specific processes for handling allegations of sexual abuse by clerics. All of these are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. When the charges involve a bishop, the CDF requires specially delegated authority from the pope to handle the case.
A full canonical trial is a lengthy affair. Depositions of witnesses and alleged victims are taken by the court at which a prosecutor, called the “promoter of justice” in canon law, and lawyers for the defense are present.
Written argumentation is exchanged through a panel of judges, with precise timelines, manners of proceeding, and legal minutiae that must be observed at each step of the way, n order to ensure that the rights of the accused are protected.
Key among McCarrick’s accusers is James Grein, who gave evidence before specially deputized archdiocesan officials in New York on Dec. 27.
As part of the CDF’s investigation, Grein testified that McCarrick, a family friend, sexually abused him over a period of years, beginning when he was 11 years old. He also alleged that McCarrick carried out some of the abuse during the sacramet of confession – itself a separate canonical crime that can lead to the penalty of laicization.
The CDF has also reportedly rceived evidence from an additional alleged victim of McCarrick – 13 at the time the alleged abuse began – and from as many as 8 seminarian – victims in the New Jersey dioceses and Metchuen, in whihch McCarrick served as Bishop.
Because of the collection of that evidence, McCarrick now faces multiple canonical chages of sexual misconduct and abuse concerning both minors and adults, including solicitation in the confessional.
Use of the abbreviated administrative process, which is only employed in cases of compelling evidence, indicates that McCarrick is likely to be convicted on at least some of the charges.
According to CDF sources, the investigative phase of the process has now been formally concluded and McCarrick has been given the chance both to speak in his own defense. His canon lawyer may also submit arguments on his behalf.
The CDF is expected to formally assess the evidence and defense within the next week, and to reach a final determination.
While many Catholics, including some bishops, have expressed frustration at a lack of resolution to the McCarrick case, his process is proceeding at break neck pace, at least by canonical standards.
Nevertheless, the CDF has been unde pressure from the Pope, together with several senior American cardinals, to resolve the matter before the heads of the world’s bishops conferences gather in Rome next month for a crisis summit on the recent sexual abuse scandals.
Some announcement of a decision is highly likely ahead of that meeting
McCarrick is likely to be laicized if he is found guilty.
The Church has refrained from dismissing clerics who are either too old, infirm, and without other means of support, recognizing a moral obligation by the Church to see to their basic subsistence.
But while he McCarrick is old and in failing health, he is also known to be financially independent.. As one source in Roma told CNA “The CDF don’t usually laicize someone if it means they’ll be living on the street, but McCarrick has always had money to throw around.”
It also seems likely that as a technical matter, it will be Pope Francis, not the CDF, that declares a verdict and imposes a penalty on the archbishop.”
“Prominent voices like Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Marie Collins, the abuse survivor and former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, have called for a change in the CDF’s legal definition of “vulnerable adults” who are classed alongside minors by the CDF in sexual abuse cases.
Currently, a vulnerable adult is someone who “habitually lacks the use of reason” O’Malley and Collins have both called for the definition to be broadened to include other victims, especially when sexual abuse is accompanied by an abuse of authority or power. Such a redefinition would include McCarrick’s alleged seminarian-victims.
If the Rome meeting next month sets out to narrowly treat the issue of minors, and seems to exclude other victims of coercive sexual abuse, the figure of Theodore McCarrick might still cast a shadow over anything it tries to achieve.”