McCarrick Report: When one mother had to speak up
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 10, 2020 / 11:25 am (CNA).- In the early 1970s, a New York family met a priest. He came to dinner, he came to birthday parties. The family was deeply religious, the priest’s attention meant a lot. He called the boys his nephews.
The priest was Theodore McCarrick. And by the 1980s, the mother in that family knew she needed to tell the Church that McCarrick, then Bishop of Metuchen, was not who he seemed to be.
Not knowing quite what to do, and fearing retribution from McCarrick or other Church officials, she anonymously hand-wrote letters to every cardinal in the United States, and well as to the papal nuncio in Washington, D.C., expressing concern that McCarrick was attracted to young boys.
The McCarrick Report, published by the Vatican on Tuesday, includes testimony from that mother, one of the first people known to have accused McCarrick of misconduct with minors. Her concerns did not prompt a response from Church authorities, likely because they were not signed.
The woman, identified as “Mother 1,” said that she witnessed McCarrick rubbing the inner thighs of her then-teenage children when McCarrick was a priest in New York.
The information in the report was taken from three interviews with Mother 1.
Mother 1 was unable to say when she exactly wrote the letters, but recalled that it was during the mid-1980s, when McCarrick was serving as the bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen. McCarrick’s tenure in Metuchen lasted from 1981 until 1986, when he was appointed archbishop of Newark.
The report recounts that Mother 1 drove to Metuchen from her home in New York to write the letters at the local library, saying that she wanted McCarrick to notice the nearby postmark. She said she used a copy of the Catholic Directory to determine the addresses to which she should send letters.
Today, a person with suspicions about a priest could contact a dicoesan hotline, made public in parish bulletins and online. She might also call the police, as diocesan authorities frequently urge. But in the early 1980s, things weren’t so clear. For Mother 1, the letters were the only thing that might work.
In the report, Mother 1 said she did not identify herself as female or as a mother in her letters, and was afraid that there would be retaliation as her family. The letter was signed with an illegible signature.
“While she had difficulty recalling the precise contents of the letters, Mother 1 identified certain words she did and did not use. She recalled that she ‘used the word “children”’ and ‘mentioned something about 13- or 14-year-old boys,’” said the report.
“Mother 1 stated that she was ‘trying to explain that McCarrick had an attraction to boys,’’ the report said, and she wrote she had witnessed “inappropriate touching.”
The woman said in the report that there was never any indication that her letters were received, possibly due to their anonymous nature. The report says that “an attempt to canvass archdioceses headed by cardinal archbishops during the mid-1980s failed to turn up any record or copy of the letters.”
Mother 1 did not keep a copy of the letter herself, nor did she initially tell anyone that she had warned cardinals about McCarrick’s conduct.
She described seeing McCarrick touch her sons’ inner thighs, She said after watching that, “ I said [to my husband], ‘We need to get him out of our lives.’ [My husband] just refused to understand.”
Mother 1 said that McCarrick took a particular interest in her eldest son.
“Ted would stand behind my eldest son, who was a teenager, and rub his chest from behind, holding him close,” she said in the report, echoing similar behavior reported in accusations against McCarrick made public since 2018.
The report describes how McCarrick had groomed Mother 1’s sons, buying them “trinkets” and making them refer to him as “Uncle Ted” or “Unk.”
McCarrick referred to the family as his own family, and gave “the impression that we were very special to him.”
At one point, McCarrick arrived in a helicopter to celebrate one of Mother 1’s sons’ confirmations. McCarrick, who was not related to the family, referred to the boys as his nephews.
Mother 1 wrote that, over time, McCarrick took her teenage sons on overnight trips with other “nephews,” where he provided them with alcohol. Mother 1, who herself did not drink, said that this was a red flag that McCarrick’s motivations were not pure.
“And when they told me that they had had alcohol, I thought: this man is a danger to my sons. We were not a family that had alcohol around,” said Mother 1. “And to my knowledge the boys had not had alcohol before that. He had brought beer with him on the trip. And that told me that he was a dangerous person. And that bringing alcohol was a premeditated act on his part.”
She also recalled that he became possessive, saying that a teenaged son “owed him” a weekend trip, and shouldn’t be going to a school dance.
One of Mother 1’s sons stated that in the late-1980s, his mother had approached him about his friendship with “Ted.”
“She indicated that Ted’s emotional attachment might represent something which was either injurious or could lead to harm. At first, I was taken aback, since no one [had] put such a question to me,” said the son in the report. “But, to me, her motives were unimpeachable.” The son stated that McCarrick had been “clingy” but that he did not view his behavior as “something either sexualized or emotionally exploitive.”
Another one of Mother 1’s sons confirmed that his mother told him in the early-1990s that she “was intending to go public” and accuse McCarrick of abusing her sons years ago. The son discouraged her from going public with the accusations, as “now that we are adults and long past the point where he could abuse us.”
“It was not a question of dissuading my mother if she thought she had something to say,” said the son. “My point was that I did not think it would be appropriate to use either my own or my older brother’s experience as the reason for her decision to go public,” due to the amount of time between the event and that he “didn’t view what had happened as sexual.”
McCarrick was not publicly accused of abusing a minor until June 20, 2018. Before that time, known allegations of abuse had concerned adult priests and seminarians, except for those allegations that were written anonymously.