After the McCarrick scandal, the US bishops are calling for extra transparency

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Retired Roman Catholic Cardinal McCarrick watches during a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad in Tehran

By Philip Pullella

(Reuters) – U.S. Roman Catholic leaders called for greater transparency and scrutiny in the appointment of bishops on Monday following the scandal of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who rose through the ranks despite repeated allegations of sexual misconduct.

The American bishops made the proposals during their annual general meeting, held practically this year because of the coronavirus pandemic and after an explosive 450-page report from the Vatican last week.

McCarrick, a US Church star, was expelled from the priesthood last year after an internal investigation found him guilty of sexual abuse of minors and adults as well as abuse of power.

The report showed that Pope John Paul II promoted McCarrick to Archbishop of Washington DC in 2000, despite ongoing rumors of sexual misconduct. The late Pope believed in his personal rejection of the word of several high-ranking Church officials who advised him not to sponsor McCarrick.

"What we have learned is that we should take the recommendations and comments of those responsible very seriously," said Donald Hanchon, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit, during a public session of the Internet-streamed meeting.

Bishop Mark Brennan of Charleston, West Virginia, said the procedures for appointing bishops, which are largely secret and carried out by Vatican officials, should be transparent.

"We should look at how bishops are checked," he said. Brennan added that once a priest is eligible for promotion to the diocese, his name should be published before assuming office.

He suggested a two month period to allow people time to provide their information.

"I am truly amazed at the autonomy we have, that we are not really indebted to anyone," said Bishop William Wack of Tallahassee, Florida.

"It's a stunning, breathtaking report … people knew there were whispers about things, but no one was putting the pieces together and very few people confronted the perpetrators directly," Wack said.

Other bishops suggested that the Church establish a system whereby seminarians studying for the priesthood are regularly asked whether a bishop is abusing his power.

McCarrick said he had no memory of child abuse and did not speak publicly on allegations of adult misconduct. Now, at the age of 90, he lives in isolation.

The report found that he was using his authority over the careers of priests and seminarians to force them to sleep with him.

The former cardinal was also an impressive fundraiser and often gave gifts of money to other bishops and Vatican officials.

Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, said the report mentioned the gifts but did not name who received the money. He said the information should be made public.

Several bishops defended Pope John Paul's legacy, saying McCarrick was a pathological liar who deceived the Pope.

John Paul died in 2005 and was declared a saint in 2014, a record of nine years for a process that sometimes takes decades or even centuries. Critics said the canonization process was too hasty.

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