Pope John Paul II knew about allegations of sexual misconduct against Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington D.C. who sexually abused minors and adults, but chose to ignore them and promote him anyway, a damning new report from the Vatican said on Tuesday.
As a Cardinal, McCarrick, now 90, became the highest-ranking official forced out of the priesthood in modern times last year, after Pope Francis defrocked him for sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians. That move came after Francis made the late John Paul II a saint in 2014.
Evidence shows church officials knew about his wrongdoing for years, and last year Pope Francis ordered an investigation into how much was known, and by whom.
The result of that investigation, the report published today, says it was Pope Benedict who eventually took the allegations against McCarrick more seriously, asking him to step away from his duties and lead "a life of prayer."
Pope Francis, on the other hand, has been exonerated in the report and is credited with promptly removing McCarrick's red hat and defrocking him — removing him from the Catholic priesthood entirely — once the allegations of sexual abuse of minors became public.
Francis has promised victims of abuse at the hands of clerics that he will "follow the path of truth wherever it may lead."
With this long-overdue report, Vatican leaders and those victims hope that McCarrick's fall from grace will also lead to consequences, and prevention.