If you thought Fulton Sheen’s sainthood delay was a sorrow, I think I can suggest a cleric who will never be cited in a future Roman martyrology: Joseph Ratzinger, the recipient of the biggest chunk of largesse from the retired, disgraced, and defrocked archbishop of Washington.
I saw this WaPo piece on my news feed, and it bothered me as much as anything I’ve seen lately. I suspect it will bother the anti-Francis crazies too. Ex-cardinal McCarrick donations to the last three popes:
The single largest check was dropped on a newly-elected pope in 2005, a quarter-million dollars.
Yes, the article also links up with another disgraced bishop, Michael Bransfield. And yes, a cult hero/fringe bishop in hiding, Carlo Maria Viganó. They both had monetary connections to ex-cardinal McCarrick. Coming and going.
A four-decades-old personal thing and a commentary follow …
With a change of pastors in my parish of baptism, my mom was called in to a finance committee meeting. She used to do fundraising things, and ran an annual pilgrimage for the parish. She gave the departed pastor the money. It was how things were done in her Baptist church of upbringing, and presumably how the priest told her to do it in the 70s. She was criticized for the unaccounted $100k-plus over a decade. In her account to me, she turned it back on the committee: Did they not monitor the pastor’s special fund? Did they not note expenditures in office furniture or alcohol or travel? The committee had no records. The new pastor apologized. My mom continued her summer trips, but cut prices and ran the bus tours to shrines on a break-even basis for her friends.
That the donations from Ted McCarrick went for charity or the expenses of being elevated above an ordinary pastor or bishop is irrelevant. People are often attached to special charitable works, but there can be a bonus. For example, if I did a benefit concert, it would please me to no end to drop lots of money on a hospice or on Catholic radio or with some adoption cause. It would be smart of me to note the gift as a gift and take a deduction on my taxes. There’s no doubt that givers and takers of the ex-cardinal’s money were mostly people who wanted to do good, and that their intentions were virtuous.
That $250,000 check to Pope Benedict in May 2005 looks bothersome. True, the pope seemed to impose some kind of secret sanction on the cardinal. Maybe he was too much of a traditionalist to out a scandal on the institution. A next-year retirement and some kind of house arrest would serve the same purpose. And by the way, not bother telling the next pope. It makes some sense that Pope Francis would be more interested in actual service than money. By the way, money was still flowing out of the archbishop’s personal account in the Washington archdiocese as late as 2016, according to the article.
This kind of journalism, though tough to swallow, is needed. It doesn’t harm the Church. what harms us are the scandals that sit beneath the surface. They are like a cancer, sucking life from the mission, even when we don’t notice it.