November 10, 2020 (Steven O’Reilly) – The Vatican finally released the long awaited report on disgraced, ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Here at Roma Locuta Est, we are still digesting the 461 page report, entitled: “Report on the Holy See’s Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Marking Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgard McCarrick(1930 TO 2017).” The full report may be found here.
While there is much to read — and we will go through it, we do have some initial reactions and comments on one section of the report. On page 389 of the McCarrick Report, a section of the report is entitled:
“McCarrick’s Activity During the Transition from Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Francis (February to March 2013)“
This time period, February to March 2013, has been of particular interest to those who have questions about Benedict’s resignation, and some of the events leading up to the conclave which elected Pope Francis.
Roma Locuta Est has covered this period in some detail (see The Conclave Chronicles), particularly as it relates to ex-cardinal McCarrick, Pope Francis, and certain members of the St. Gallen Mafia. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise our eyes were first drawn to this section of the report.
This February to March 2013 period is treated briefly in the report, running only from pages 389 to 391. Roughly a page and a half. The section begins with the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation on February:
“On 10 February 2013, Pope Benedict XVI issued a Declaratio announcing that he would resign his office effective 28 February. With the other cardinals present in Rome, McCarrick saw Benedict XVI at his 13 February General Audience and at his final General Audience on 28 February 2013.” (McCarrick Report, p. 389).
Above, the report picks up by noting McCarrick attended Benedict’s General Audience of February 13, 2013. The report’s narrative then recounts that McCarrick gave an interview to John Allen on February 14, which is quoted in part (for Allen’s full article, see “McCarrick: We’re Ready for a Third World Pope,” National Catholic Reporter (14 Feb. 2013). After quoting a part of the interview discussing the upcoming conclave, the McCarrick Report’s narratives continues:
Asked whether the Church was ready for a “non-Western pope,” McCarrick stated that “The Church is already outside the First World [and] I think it would be great for the focus to be on areas like Latin America. If we could have a Latin American [pope], that would be great too.” According to McCarrick, it had already appeared “certainly plausible that we could have a non-European” pope during the 2005 pre-conclave Congregation meetings.
In 2013, prior to the Congregations and the Conclave, significant media
attention was focused on whether certain cardinals should be excluded from the proceedings due to allegations of involvement in sexual relationships with adults or for having not properly handled matters relating to sexual abuse of minors. Most significantly, Keith Cardinal O’Brien, who was publicly accused of past incidents of sexual misconduct with adults that had been recently reported to the Apostolic Nuncio in the United Kingdom, resigned as Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh and did not attend the meetings in Rome.
The past allegations regarding Cardinal McCarrick received no such
publicity. McCarrick participated in the General Congregations in early March 2013. He remained in Rome during the Conclave but was
ineligible to vote because he was over 80 years old.
(Source: McCarrick Report, pages 390-391).
The McCarrick Report includes a footnote (1198) at the end of this section stating (emphasis added):
During the General Congregations, voting and non-voting cardinals come together to pray and express their thoughts regarding the needs of the Church and the qualities that might be important for the next pope to possess. McCarrick was visible during the General Congregations in 2013, meeting daily with the other cardinals. Neither cardinals nor journalists raised issues about his presence. In an interview, Pope Francis vaguely recalled McCarrick’s presence during the Congregations, but did not recollect having any discussions with him. (McCarrick Report, p. 391)
All the above is essentially the sum total of the Report’s discussion of the February-March 2013, pre-conclave period. The footnote is interesting as it makes a few important admissions. First, while the body of the McCarrick Report downplays the role of McCarrick’s importance in the pre-conclave period (i.e., due to his ineligibility to vote owing to age), it makes a couple of observations.
First the McCarrick Report does admit that “voting and non-voting cardinals come together to pray and express their thoughts regarding the needs of the Church and the qualities that might be important for the next pope to possess” and that McCarrick was “visible…meeting with other Cardinals.” Thus, the McCarrick Report paints a sketch of a McCarrick who was “visible,” i.e., active, in the discussions about the “needs of the Church” and “qualities” of the next pope.
Notable and Glaring Omissions
It is interesting the McCarrick Report restricts itself to say the Congregation discussions dealt with the “qualities” of the next pope, when we know from a variety of reporting, and the admissions of participants, that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s candidacy for the papacy was actively advanced by a number of parties. There have been allegations that the St. Gallen Mafia “campaigned” for Bergoglio’s election in a manner contrary to the rules governing conclaves.
While I point readers to our previous commentary (see The Conclave Chronicles) for a fuller treatment, there are a couple of notable omissions in the report in my opinion involving this pre-conclave period.
First, we know Theodore McCarrick’s met in Rome with the Archbishop Becciu (later named Cardinal) on February 14, 2013 (see Figueirido Report). At the time, Becciu served in the important position of Substitute at the Vatican.
Question: What was the nature and substance of the meeting and discussion between McCarrick and Becciu?
The fact of this meeting must have been known to the investigators, and the date of the meeting falls within the time period covered by this section of the report. While it is true that Becciu has since been removed from his position at the Vatican due to suspicion of financial impropriety and corruption, he was at the time a very important, high-level official in the Vatican in the office of the Secretary of State. Surely he was available to the McCarrick Report investigators for comment, and in fact Becciu elsewhere in the report seemed to have some degree of knowledge of McCarrick’s crimes (e.g., see McCarrick Report, p. 401). Why then was he not interviewed on this February 14 meeting with McCarrick, or if he was, why were his remarks not included?
Second, but the most glaring omission in this section of the report is the failure to address McCarrick’s meeting in early March 2013, just prior to General Congregations, with a man McCarrick described as an “influential Italian gentleman.” However, the meeting is not to be found in the report.
Roma Locuta Est has discussed this mysterious “gentleman” in a number of articles (see The Conclave Chronicles). Briefly, this meeting in early March 2013 is of relevance as this “influential Italian gentleman” asked McCarrick specifically to ‘talk up Bergoglio’ in the General Congregations. There is at least one eyewitness who said McCarrick did in fact talk up Bergoglio during this period (see HERE). Further, there is also an eyewitness, a prelate, who says McCarrick seemingly admitted to campaigning for Bergoglio’s election, and this immediately following the announcement of the election (see HERE and HERE).[Note 1]
Given the above, the McCarrick Report’s exclusion of McCarrick’s account of the “influential Italian gentleman” is very, very curious. Consider, the following:
- The investigators took time to note McCarrick’s discussion with Vatican reporter John Allen of the National Catholic Report on February 14, as well as McCarrick’s comments on the then upcoming conclave and next pope.
- Stranger still, McCarrick described the excluded meeting during a video-taped public address at Villanova University in October 2013.
- Archbishop Vigano’s mentioned this meeting in his famous initial Testimony on McCarrick. Archbishop Vigano suggested Francis lifted Benedict sanctions on McCarrick due to the “important part he (McCarrick) had played in his (Bergoglio’s) recent election.”
- Also, McCarrick’s meeting the “influential Italian gentleman” has been the subject of much speculation in the Catholic media following Vigano’s report–all for the reasons stated briefly before (i.e., questions about the St. Gallen Mafia and a “campaign” to elect Pope Francis).
Certainly then, McCarrick’s meeting with the “influential Italian gentleman” was known to the investigators. The exclusion cannot be a simple oversight. Nor does it seem reasonable to suggest the meeting was a minor event that could be passed over without any mention in the context of this time period. As just noted, for example, McCarrick’s role in the pre-conclave discussion period has been a matter reported in the Catholic media, and is of great interest. With the above in mind, a few of the obvious questions left untouched by the investigators are:
- Did the investigators ever attempt to ascertain the identity of the “influential Italian gentleman”? If so, did they make a determination as to his identity (e.g., did they ask McCarrick)? If not, why not? Cleary this “gentleman” sought McCarrick’s support of Bergoglio in the pre-conclave discussions. McCarrick’s support would be important, as we have noted elsewhere (see Note 1), given he was considered particularly influential with third world cardinals, who even Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor acknowledged were the key to the election of Bergoglio (e.g., see HERE).
- The investigators clearly interviewed Pope Francis for this report, as noted for example in footnote 1198. Did the investigators ever ask Pope Francis if he had any knowledge of the meeting described by McCarrick? If so, did he have foreknowledge of it? For example, did he send the “gentleman” to McCarrick to request he “talk him up” in the General Congregations?
In the end, it is curious — but not surprising — that the McCarrick Report neither mentioned McCarrick’s early March 2013 meeting with the “influential Italian gentleman,” nor the latter’s request that McCarrick ‘talk up Bergoglio.’ Certainly, as noted above, knowledge of this meeting is in the public domain. McCarrick spoke publicly of it an Villanova, and I am given to understand that he even mentioned it at least once in a homily in the US. Vigano also drew attention to the meeting in his Testimony, suggesting even that Pope Francis had even rewarded McCarrick for his efforts to help him get elected. Why then would the McCarrick Report investigators not want to take this opportunity to exculpate Pope Francis in this regard?
The McCarrick Report had an opportunity to forthrightly address, and possibly to even dispel suspicions many Catholics hold related to McCarrick, “influential Italian gentleman,” the St. Gallen Mafia, and the election of Cardinal Bergoglio. It is curious and perhaps telling that the McCarrick Report passed on that opportunity [NB: see the The Conclave Chronicles for coverage of the oddities surrounding the 2013 conclave].
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is author of Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms. (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com or StevenOReilly@ProtonMail.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on Parler: @StevenOReilly).
- We also have sought to explain precisely why Bergoglio or others might seek McCarrick’s help to convince other cardinals to vote for Bergoglio (e.g, HERE), and we have even offered some thoughts on the possible identity of the “influential” Italian (see HERE). But…for more detail see the aforementioned The Conclave Chronicles.