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Sex abuse revelations

VATICAN CITY - Revelations that one of the most respected U.S. cardinals allegedly sexually abused both boys and adult seminarians have raised questions about who in the Catholic Church hierarchy knew — and what Pope Francis is going to do about it.

If the accusations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick bear out — including a new case reported Friday involving an 11-year-old boy — will Francis revoke his title as cardinal? Sanction him to a lifetime of penance and prayer? Or even defrock him, the expected sanction if McCarrick were a mere priest?

And will Francis, who has already denounced a "culture of coverup" in the church, take the investigation all the way to the top, where it will inevitably lead? McCarrick's alleged sexual misdeeds with adults were reportedly brought to the Vatican's attention years ago.

The matter is now on the desk of the pope, who has already spent the better part of 2018 dealing with a spiraling child sex abuse, adult gay priest sex and coverup scandal in Chile that was so vast the entire bishops' conference offered to resign in May.

And on Friday, Francis accepted the resignation of the Honduran deputy to Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is one of Francis' top advisers. Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle, 57, was accused of sexual misconduct with seminarians and lavish spending on his lovers that was so obvious to Honduras' poverty-wracked faithful that Maradiaga is now under pressure to reveal what he knew of Pineda's misdeeds and why he tolerated a sexually active gay bishop in his ranks.

The McCarrick scandal poses the same questions. It was apparently an open secret in some U.S. church circles that "Uncle Ted" invited seminarians to his beach house, and into his bed.

While such an abuse of power may have been quietly tolerated for decades, it doesn't fly in the #MeToo era. And there has been a deafening silence from McCarrick's brother bishops about what they might have known and when.

Fraternal solidarity is common among clerics, but some observers point to it as possible evidence of the so-called "gay lobby" or "lavender mafia" at work. These euphemisms — frequently denounced as politically incorrect displays of homophobia in the church — are used by some to describe a perceived protection and promotion network of gay Catholic clergy.

"There is going to be so much clamour for the Holy Father to remove the red hat, to formally un-cardinalize him," said the Rev. Thomas Berg, vice rector and director of admissions at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, the seminary of the archdiocese of New York.

Berg said the church needs to ensure that men with deep-seated same-sex attraction simply don't enter seminaries — a position recently reinforced by the Vatican at large and by Francis in comments to Chilean and Italian bishops.

Berg said the church also needs to take action when celibacy vows are violated.

"We can't effectively prevent the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults by clergy while habitual and widespread failures in celibacy are quietly tolerated," he said.

McCarrick, the 88-year-old retired archbishop of Washington and confidante to three popes, was ultimately undone when the U.S. church announced June 20 that Francis had ordered him removed from public ministry. The sanction was issued pending a full investigation into a "credible" allegation that he fondled a teenager more than 40 years ago in New York City.

The dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, New Jersey, simultaneously revealed that they had received three complaints of misconduct by McCarrick against adults and had settled two of them.



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