Seton Hall also allowed the former cardinal to use an on-campus apartment following his resignation as archbishop of Washington despite objections from the Newark Archdiocese
Nearly two years after initiating an investigation into the conduct of disgraced former American Cardinal and Archbishop of Newark Theodore McCarrick, the Vatican released a 449-page report detailing how he was able to rise to the highest levels of Church leadership while at the same time sexually abusing young boys, seminarians and fellow priests.
The report, released Tuesday, found that Pope John Paul II rejected warnings the Vatican received about sexual abuse by McCarrick when elevating him to archbishop of Washington in 2000, opting instead to believe distorted accounts from three New Jersey bishops who were tasked by the Holy See to investigate allegations of abuse.
In a historic move, McCarrick was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after the Church found him guilty of sexual abuse.
Seton Hall University initiated its own investigation into McCarrick’s conduct in 2018, led by the law firm Latham & Watkins, after allegations surfaced that he had sexually harassed seminarians from the University’s Immaculate Conception Seminary during the American prelate’s 14-year tenure as archbishop of Newark.
The University concluded the investigation in August 2019, opting to keep the full report confidential citing Title IX laws and University policy, but shared the key findings of the report which confirmed that McCarrick “used his position of power as then-archbishop of Newark to sexually harass seminarians” between 1986 and 2000 and “created a culture of fear and intimidation that supported his personal objectives.”
While the full findings of the University’s inquiry still remain confidential, the Vatican report notes that the Holy See was granted access to it as part of its investigation.
According to the Vatican, the University’s report identified “inappropriate conduct” on behalf of McCarrick while he served as archbishop, including sharing his bed with seminarians at a beach house in Sea Girt owned by the Diocese of Metuchen.
McCarrick would often invite groups of priests and seminarians to the house for the weekend, typically welcoming more people than there were beds, the Vatican found. When night time came, he would ask a seminarian or young priest to share his bed, where he would allegedly grope them inappropriately.
The Vatican report noted that the Seton Hall investigation did not reveal evidence that McCarrick made sexual advances in bed with seminarians, but the practice of sharing his bed had been “known among seminary staff and administrators,” though no official complaint of sexual harassment or assault was ever brought to Seton Hall.
Additionally, the seminary took no action to prohibit the practice as it was believed the nature of the bed-sharing was “non-sexual and consensual.”
During its investigation, the University did identify an account from one former seminarian who claimed that while laying on the beach, McCarrick placed his hand on the seminarian’s buttocks beneath his bathing suit for a few minutes while others were also present. Overall, Seton Hall did not discover any indication that McCarrick ever engaged in sexual contact on the University’s campus.
Also featured in the Vatican report was the revelation that following McCarrick’s resignation as archbishop of Washington in 2006, Vatican officials pushed him to move back to New Jersey to lower the popular Church figure’s profile.
In March 2006, McCarrick reached out to then-Seton Hall president Monsignor Robert Sheeran and requested to live part-time in Gerety Hall, a small on-campus apartment complex for priests, adding that he would be willing to be helpful at the University “as long as it did not become too high profile.”
Then-Archbishop of Newark John Myers strongly opposed McCarrick’s presence at the University, stating in a memo dated April 3, 2006 that he would “take no responsibility for his presence on campus, especially should that become embarrassing.”
According to the report, Myers told Sheeran that “should that occur, I will make the facts in the matter public.”
Despite the opposition from Myers, McCarrick was ultimately assigned an apartment in Gerety Hall, which held items belonging to him until 2019 when University officials ordered his possessions to be boxed up.
The report notes that Myers was privy to some of the allegations against McCarrick, which included two 2002 letters claiming inappropriate conduct on behalf of the Cardinal at the home in Sea Girt.
In both instances, in appears that Myers did not find the information credible and did not launch an investigation into the claims.
But in February 2005, Myers informed Noncio Gabriel Montalvo, the Papal diplomat to the U.S., of a mediation that occurred between a former seminarian and priest of the Diocese of Metuchen, who reported in statement that McCarrick often would choose him to share the double bed at the Sea Girt home and “would ask for a backrub or offer to give me a backrub.”
“Given my circumstance as a seminarian under Cardinal McCarrick, I never felt able to resist his requests, and so I often complied,” the statement read.
Though the statement did contain allegations of sexual abuse, none were directed at McCarrick. Myers reported to Montalvo that the contents of the statement were “in accord with rumors we have heard.”
The University responded to Tuesday’s report with a statement, but did not address any of the new details specifically.
“Individuals, communities and parishes across the country have been egregiously affected by former archbishop McCarrick and others who have profoundly and forever negatively altered so many lives,” the statement read.
The University also reiterated the alterations it made to its Title IX policy in the wake of the 2019 investigation into McCarrick, which included the creation of a Chief Equity, Diversity and Compliance Officer, hiring Title IX coordinators for all three University campuses and enhancing oversight, control and compliance between the University, the Immaculate Conception Seminary and the Archdiocese of Newark.
Nicholas Kerr can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @nickdotkerr.