Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, 93, told Robert Duncan of the Catholic News Service that when he was the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, he alerted O’Connor to information he received shortly before Pope St. John Paul II’s 1995 visit to the U.S.
“I remember in 1994, during the preparation of the papal visit to New York, Newark[,] and Baltimore, I received a telephone call,” Cacciavillan said.
It was from a woman who was worried that there would be a “media scandal” if Pope John Paul II went to Newark, the retired diplomat stated, because of rumors “about McCarrick’s behavior with seminarians.”
The woman was not making a complaint but tabling a concern.
McCarrick, who this summer resigned from the College of Cardinals after a credible report he sexually abused a minor decades ago and an avalanche of sex abuse allegations from former seminarians and priests, was at the time the archbishop of Newark.
Cacciavillan said that he spoke to Cardinal O’Connor because, as the archbishop of New York, he was “the closest bishop” to Newark.
“No one better than the archbishop of New York would know what was happening in the Archdiocese of Newark,” he said.
Cacciavillan believes that O’Connor responded by carrying out “an inquiry, an investigation.” The then-Archbishop of New York reported back to say that there was no reason why the Pope should not go to Newark.
The retired Vatican diplomat remembers O’Connor as being a “very competent person” and told CNS he never doubted that the Cardinal’s investigation was reliable.
Cacciavillan was nuncio from 1990 to 1998, and bumped into Archbishop McCarrick many times during his tenure in the U.S. Neither of them mentioned the rumors. Cacciavillan told CNS that he hadn’t reported them to the Vatican, either.
Apparently the first time Cacciavillan discussed them with anyone was on October 7, 2018, when he visited with Cardinal Marc Ouellet. The Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Ouellet had just released his open letter to Vatican whistleblower Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.
Viganò was the third Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. after Cacciavillan. When Pope John Paul II promoted Cacciavillan to the role of president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, he was replaced by Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.
Montalvo, who was Nuncio from 1998 to 2005, did report allegations about McCarrick to the Vatican. When he was very ill from lung cancer, he was replaced by Archbishop Pietro Sambi. Sambi held the post from early in 2006 until his death in 2011 of complications following lung surgery. Sambi, too, reported allegations about McCarrick to the Holy See.
Sambi was succeeded by Viganò, who has so far provided three explosive testimonies regarding the promotion of, and cover up for, Theodore McCarrick. In Viganò’s first testimony, he detailed the information his predecessors Montalvo and Sambi had sent to the Holy See and said that he himself had told Pope Francis that McCarrick had “corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.”
As Montalvo died in 2006 and Sambi in 2011, Cacciavillan and Vigano are the only former papal nuncios to the U.S. still living. Pio Laghi, Cacciavillan’s predecessor, died in 2009, as did his own predecessor, the liberal Jean Jadot.
Cacciavillan denied reports that he had told Archbishop McCarrick to sell the now-notorious beachhouse where the predatory prelate allegedly brought young seminarians. The reports may have arisen because Cacciavillan was nuncio in 1997, when McCarrick sold the house.