Faith and Reason - Digesting Archbishop McCarrick’s move to Victoria
Written by Fr. Andrew Rockers
Q. Should Archbishop Theodore McCarrick be living in Victoria?
A. Many Catholics throughout the Diocese and throughout the country were shocked, discouraged and even angered when they heard the news that the disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick would be living at St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria. I myself was among them. But then, by God’s grace and Bishop Jerry Vincke’s example, I began to have a different perspective on the whole matter. Basically, I realized I don’t know the answer to the above question, and I don’t think anyone else really does either.
God’s ways are quite mysterious, beyond our ability to comprehend. Anyone who has read the Book of Job knows to be very hesitant about claiming to know the mind of God. Or put another way, we read in Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” It’s all too easy to view this situation regarding Archbishop McCarrick from a human perspective. I think Bishop Vincke is challenging us to view it from a divine perspective, through the eyes of faith.
We want justice. All people of good will want the perpetrators of these terrible crimes to face justice for what they’ve done. Many people are calling for Archbishop McCarrick to be thrown in jail, and while that is very understandable, at this moment in time, it’s also very unrealistic. He has not been charged or convicted of any civil crimes, at least not yet, and therefore the Church has no ability to have him thrown in jail, now or ever. Many people are also calling for him to be laicized or removed from the priesthood, something I myself support strongly. But, there’s only one person in the world with the authority to do that, and it’s not Bishop Vincke, nor anyone else in the United States. Even if these just things were to happen, we need to remember that they would not perfectly satisfy justice for the sins of Archbishop McCarrick; all human justice is necessarily imperfect. True justice for these terrible crimes can only be brought about by God himself.
There are two ways this could happen: the eternal punishment of hell or the redemptive power of Christ. No disciple of Jesus can desire the former, we must all desire and pray for the latter. The justice that we must truly desire can only come from mercy, from Archbishop McCarrick repenting of his sins and placing them at the foot of the cross, so that they can be cleansed in the Blood of the Lamb; this is the mystery of our redemption. And this is compatible with him still being held accountable in this life and having to make reparation in Purgatory.
In 1887, there was a convicted murderer by the name of Henri Pranzini condemned to death. He was unrepentant up until the very moment of his execution, when he turned to the priest present and devoutly kissed a crucifix three times. St. Therese of Lisieux had been praying fervently for his repentance and salvation, and she took this as a sign that her prayer had been answered. Bishop Vincke is asking us as a Diocese to take up a similar mission as that of St. Therese: to pray fervently that Archbishop McCarrick will receive all the graces necessary for his salvation. Our bishop saying yes to letting the archbishop live in Victoria is not preventing justice from being carried out. As I said above, he doesn’t have the authority necessary for that. He could have said no, but they would have just found somewhere else for Archbishop McCarrick to live. And some people, especially in Victoria, are probably going to continue to wish our bishop had, and I sympathize with that. But instead, he accepted this challenge for our diocese, taking it to prayer and believing it to be of God.
In God’s providence, we are now being called upon to pray and sacrifice in an intentional and intense way for the conversion and repentance of Archbishop McCarrick. The Prayer after Communion for the Mass of St. Therese beautifully articulates this call from God: “May the Sacrament we have received, O Lord, kindle in us the force of that love with which Saint Therese dedicated herself to you and longed to obtain your mercy for all. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
A final word does need to be said about the fact that St. Fidelis Friary is right next to an elementary school. This looks terrible; but, I want to suggest that it looks far worse than it actually is. The reason the archbishop was able to do what he did was because of his influence and authority, but that’s all over. He is now a weak and frail 88-year-old man, with no influence or power in Victoria to use as leverage. There are also no young and vulnerable Capuchins at St. Fidelis Friary; it is primarily a retirement home, not a house of formation. The archbishop has been explicitly confined to the Friary itself. He is not allowed to leave for any reason, short of a medical emergency
I realize this doesn't address all of the concerns, disagreements and potential problems with this arrangement, but in God's Providence it is what it is, at least for now. With faith and fervent prayer, let's make the best of it. And please pray for Bishop Vincke as well.