(July 9, 2022) Edward J Barr – Disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was known as a kingmaker of US bishops, allegedly having influence over Vatican appointments to the episcopate. In the years prior to his demise Pope Francis rehabilitated then Cardinal McCarrick, who become a key player in the Vatican’s still secret deal with the Chinese regime. McCarrick had a long history of activity in China, traveling to the communist country at least eight times. Although no longer an official of the Catholic Church, his influence from developing networks in both the US and the Vatican can be seen in the Pope’s most recent US selections to the Cardinalate.
In the Fall of 2020 RLE investigated the potential that the Chinese government had used McCarrick as an unwitting agent of influence. In Part I of our report, we looked at the overall connections McCarrick had with the Chinese and his sympathies toward the regime (see Chinese Spying on the Vatican: A McCarrick Connection? – PART I – Primary effects). In Part II we theorized that a secondary effect may be inadvertent damage to the Church through the promotion of like-minded clerics to senior positions (see Chinese Spying on the Vatican: A McCarrick Connection? – PART II– secondary effects.) At the time of the article, we noted Blaise Cupich, Kevin Farrell, and Joseph Tobin as examples of McCarrick’s inner network that were named Cardinals by Pope Francis. Two weeks after the article another McCarrick ally, Wilton Gregory, was named a Cardinal. Most recently, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy was named a Cardinal on May 29. That continues a trend of pro-homosexual bishops with ties to McCarrick that have been elevated by the Vatican. It seems, at least regarding appointments to the Cardinalate, that “Uncle Ted” is gone but not forgotten.
All the American bishops selected as Cardinals by Pope Francis have ties to McCarrick, personal and ideological. Archbishop Vigano has leveled specific charges concerning Cardinal Cupich being championed by McCarrick. Whatever the level of veracity to this charge, the two had met and are alike in their thinking on several issues, especially support of the pro-gay lobby. For example, in 2015 Cupich outlined a path for gay couples to receive communion.
Cardinal Farrell was a protégé of McCarrick and the two lived in the same house for six years. Enough said. Cardinal Tobin was informed of McCarrick’s perverse activities but ignored the repost, claiming that it was “unbelievable.” Cardinal Gregory worked directly with McCarrick in 2004 to hide then Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith guidance on prohibiting pro-abortion Catholic politicians from receiving holy communion. McElroy was an associate of McCarrick, who also refused to investigate reports of McCarrick’s sexual abuse. Of the five, all but Cardinal Gregory were overtly opposed to the US Council of Catholic Bishops proposal to make the Vatican’s McCarrick report public. Farrell didn’t participate as he is based at the Vatican; Gregory was publicly neutral.
Why would the Vatican support and promote bishops with close ties to McCarrick? There are several possibilities. The first is the Vatican could be unaware of the ties. This is implausible. The McCarrick report, while a public relations document, did likely uncover substantially more information of which the Vatican is aware, to include the connections to certain prelates. The links to McCarrick by the appointees are widely known and have been scrutinized by Catholic and mainstream press outlets.
The second potential reason is the Vatican supports McCarrick, despite public rhetoric. McCarrick was an outspoken champion of the secret Chinese deal between Pope Francis and Chinese President Xi Jinping. When others came out against the agreement, McCarrick strongly defended the Vatican. His adeptly extended his influence through monetary contributions and political connections to Church and secular authorities, most especially with liberal minded members of the Democrat party. It is likely he still has many friends in high places, to include the Vatican.
A final reason could be simply that the Pope agrees with the McCarrick mind-set carried on by these five American cardinals. They not only are pro-homosexual, but they also oppose sanctioning pro-abortion politicians and are eager to punish traditional Catholics. They favor the “pastoral” approach that minimizes or opposes traditional Church teaching on moral issues. These are all in tune with Papal priorities.
Yet, the question of the extent of Chinese influence on the Vatican remains. The RLE articles referenced above demonstrate the deep ties McCarrick had with China. Those ties, and the related pro-Chinese views he espoused, appear to be firmly entrenched within the Vatican. The secret deal with the Chinese seems to be an abject failure by all accounts. Churches are being shuttered, crosses are being removed, youth are prohibited from attending services, priests and bishops are being arrested, and the Chinese are creating a new “bible.” Despite the gravity of the situation, the Vatican does nothing. Whatever the level of control or influence of the Chinese achieved, there can be no doubt that the Chinese Communist Party is pleased with the Vatican’s policies.
The Vatican’s response to the arrest of Cardinal Zen is instructive. The Vatican press office released a statement that said, “The Holy See has learned with concern the news of the arrest of Cardinal Zen and is following the development of the situation with extreme attention.” Their tepid response paled in comparison to that of the US and other secular nations. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, claimed that Cardinal Zen had been “treated well.” The ludicrousness of that statement is clear to all who have followed the increased suppression of democracy in Hong Kong over the last few years.
Why does the Church bow down to Chinese Communists in the face of overt and widespread persecution of its clergy and laity? Follow the money is always a good strategy to pursue. There have been charges of significant Chinese financial support provided to the Vatican. While these haven’t been proven, the Holy See’s financial problems have been clearly substantiated. In addition to the London real estate scandal, there are reports of the Vatican conducting operations to extract money from traditional religious orders.
Another potential reason for lack of action on Chinese atrocities is the Vatican doesn’t want to appear to have miscalculated. It would be tragic if the Vatican placed its reputation above the lives of Chinese Catholics, but the continued pro-China statements by senior Vatican officials such as Cardinal Parolin indicate no Church interest in revisiting the agreement with the government of China. Recently, Pope Francis said that he wanted to renew the agreement for another two-year term this October. Despite the one-sided nature of the deal and the pain and suffering that has befallen Chinese Catholics, there will be no turning back.
At this point we have only theories. What we do know is that the Chinese were overtly championed by McCarrick, he used his influence in support of the Vatican’s agreement with China, the Vatican continues to dig its heels in to promote the agreement and minimize Chinese persecution, and McCarrick like-minded American bishops are exclusively named as Cardinals by Pope Francis. Is there a connection between Chinese influence operations, the continued naming of McCarrick cardinals, and the Vatican’s secret deal with the Chinese Communist Party? It is likely. This connection probably has more impact with the Vatican’s secret deal than it does with the McCarrick cardinal appointments. That result is in line with the theory about secondary effects contained in Part II of the above referenced articles. We can expect more of the same as long as Francis remains pope.
Edward J Barr is a Catechist, an attorney, an intelligence officer, and a Marine. He earned a Master of Theology degree from the Augustine Institute. Mr. Barr is a contributing writer for the Roma Locuta Est blog (www.RomaLocutaEst.com)
 RLE has also looked at the Vatican’s connection with China and the McCarrick connection. See “Why did McCarrick visit the Obama/Biden White House in July 2013?”