- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 5, 2018

Catholics in the District of Columbia are conflicted about how to continue to support the church after the resignation of former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick over reports of sexual abuse.

The former archbishop of Washington stepped down from the College of Cardinals one month after a church panel substantiated a report that, as a priest in New York, he sexually abused a teenage altar boy more than 45 years ago. Pope Francis accepted his resignation on Saturday and ordered him to serve a “life of prayer and penance.”

Scotty O’Connell, who attends the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Northwest Washington, and other members of the diocese are calling for a boycott until Archbishop McCarrick’s enablers are removed from the church. Ms. O’Connell said she had discontinued her weekly offerings at her parish because a percentage of all contributions are given to the archdiocese.

“What I am encouraging people to do is divert their contributions, what they would be giving to their parish, to another charitable organization,” Ms. O’Connell said. “I don’t want any of my dollars, or nickels or dimes, being used by the archdiocese, particularly the Archdiocese of Washington, to settle claims or to get criminals off the hook.”

Dennis Corkery, a nine-year member of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Northwest, said Sunday that he might consider withholding donations if it would get the attention of church leaders. Mr. Corkery, 34, said he changed his method of giving — directly to his parish instead of the archdiocese — “in 2009, 2010, the way bishops were acting with the Affordable Care Act.”

“The sex abuse scandal, we’ve known about this for a while, sadly is nothing new,” said Mr. Corkery, who donates monthly via an online service. “If there’s a way to get the attention of the larger church that this is an issue that needs to be addressed, by all means, if that’s a movement, then I might look into it.”

But Evelyn Whitaker, a 75-year-old member of Immaculate Conception, said Sunday: “I would not change my donation to my church.”

“It’s not the church. It’s the men in the church who covered it up, and it was the culture to take advantage of these kids,” Ms. Whitaker said.

A New York Times investigation last month found that multiple reports about Archbishop McCarrick’s transgressions were made known from 1994 to 2008 to high-ranking church officials, including American bishops and Pope Benedict XVI.

The investigation also found that two New Jersey dioceses secretly paid settlements amounting to tens of thousands of dollars in 2005 and 2007 to two men who said they were sexually assaulted by Archbishop McCarrick when he was a bishop in New Jersey in the 1980s.

Archbishop McCarrick served as the archbishop of Washington, one of the most prominent Catholic leadership positions in the country, from 2001 to 2006. He was succeeded as archbishop by Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Washington said Cardinal Wuerl had no knowledge of the New Jersey settlements before they were made public.

“When the first claim against Archbishop McCarrick was filed in the Archdiocese of New York, the Archdiocese of Washington reviewed its own files and found no complaints of any kind made against Archbishop McCarrick,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “Further, the confidential settlements involving acts by Archbishop McCarrick in the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark were not known previously to Cardinal Wuerl or the Archdiocese of Washington.”

Given the long paper trail documenting Archbishop McCarrick’s transgressions, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said church leaders need to be held accountable for their “moral failures.”

“These failures raise serious questions,” Cardinal DiNardo said in a statement. “Why weren’t these allegations of sins against chastity and human dignity disclosed when they were first brought to Church officials? Why wasn’t this egregious situation addressed decades sooner and with justice? What must our seminaries do to protect the freedom to discern a priestly vocation without being subject to misuse of power?”

The website BishopAccountability.com estimates that the Catholic Church has paid about $2.5 billion to survivors of sexual abuse by U.S. clergy since 2002, when The Boston Globe published its report on sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston.

The largest settlement was agreed to in May, when the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said it would pay $210 million to 450 victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Ms. O’Connell said she doesn’t want to cut off financial support to her parish but is sickened by the thought of her dollars being used to cover up sexual abuse.

“I’m really conflicted,” she said. “In my own parish, if there were a way I could — if the construction worker could send me the bill, I could pay him directly. I don’t want to cut off my own parish. I go there, my kid went to the school, they have a food pantry where they provide goods and diapers and food to people. I don’t want to cut them off, but I don’t want 15 percent taken off the top to go to the archdiocese.”

Other Catholics calling for reform include Beverly Stevens, editor-in-chief of Regina magazine, who encouraged congregants to impose a check on church spending.

“Stop donating to corrupt bishops and clerics,” Ms. Stevens told Church Militant. “Why? Because you are enabling them. Set up a 501(c)3 laity-controlled fund. When your priest needs his electric bill paid or his roof fixed, the fund then can pay for his needs directly.”

On his YouTube show, “The Vortex,” Catholic journalist Michael Voris said U.S. bishops need to be “cut off from your financial support.”

“These men need to be held accountable, in this world, for the evil that many of them have inflicted on the faithful,” Mr. Voris said. “The only thing they understand is money.”

Julian Gregorio contributed to this report.

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