Monday, April 16, 2007

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the recently retired archbishop of Washington, blamed the “loose morals” of the 1960s for the massive sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church.

Speaking at a conference in Auckland, New Zealand, last weekend, he said the priestly sex abusers had been caught up in the sexually lax climate of the 1960s — an era that he said was “when anything goes.”

“It was Woodstock,” he said, according to the New Zealand Herald. “People were smoking marijuana, and the sexual mores went down as all mores went down.”

It was also true that the problem had always existed “and that we have become aware of it just recently,” the newspaper reported him as saying. “Now, having become aware of it, we have tried to do the very best we can to ensure that it doesn’t happen.”

Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, could not comment on the cardinal’s quotes as she had not seen an original text. The cardinal’s remarks were part of a longer interview about the priest sex-abuse crisis.

The Washington Archdiocese has spent $6 million on sex-abuse cases. About 130 people, mostly men, have made charges judged as credible against 28 priests in the archdiocese for incidents, most of which were before 1980.

In December, the Washington Archdiocese settled a lawsuit brought against it by 16 men for $1.3 million. Represented by the law firm Greenberg Traurig, the men said they had been abused by priests between 1962 and 1982.

Mark Serrano, a Leesburg, Va.-based advocate for people sexually abused by priests and a member of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), called the cardinal’s comments “egregious and typical.”

“This was about felony sex abusers in the priesthood and the bishops who protected them,” he said. “That sex crimes against children can relate to a cultural period in American history is absurd.

“That’s been the line out of the Vatican all along — that the sex-abuse crisis is about the loose morals of the Americans.”

Under the cardinal’s leadership, the archdiocese revised its sex-abuse policy in 2003 and was commended the next year for its “exemplary” abuse-protection program by the Boston-based Gavin Group, which judged U.S. dioceses on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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