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Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, speaking here at the U.S. Bishop fall general assembly in 2014, has been a prominent liberal voice in the U.S. Church.Lisa Bourne / LifeSiteNews

VATICAN CITY, July 6, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — A prominent Italian newsman has asked a question on many Catholics’ minds: why are bishops who molest anyone under their care allowed to become cardinals?

Andrea Tornelli, 54, raised the issue this week in the La Stampa newspaper’s Vatican Insider magazine. While waiting to hear if disgraced Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella, sentenced to five years for possessing and distributing child porn, would appeal, the journalist wondered why prelates accused of much worse have not been sent to jail.

Calling the situation a “paradox,” Tornelli observed: “a prelate who has unleashed his perverse fantasies by compiling web images will have to serve a five-year sentence, while prelates who have effectively abused children and teenage boys ruining their lives, in several cases, do not spend even one single day in a cell.”

Then Tornelli brought up the case of Cardinal McCarrick, who is accused of having abused a boy 45 years ago in New York, and reflected that three other Cardinals appointed in recent years have been accused of abusing boys or young men. They are Hans Hermann Groer, the former Archbishop of Vienna; Keith O’Brien, the former Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh; and George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy.  

While admitting that charges against Pell are open to doubt, Tornelli observed that there seems to be a problem in nominating bishops. He said that this was particularly evident in the case of McCarrick, who was known for having sexually harassed men under his charge:

“What strikes [me]… is] the information published in the statement of Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, Archbishop of the Diocese of Newark, who revealed that ‘In the past, there have been allegations that he engaged in sexual behavior with adults. This Archdiocese and the Diocese of Metuchen received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements.’”

“In the three cases concerning McCarrick’s past – when he was already bishop – no minor was involved, but there is talk of harassment of seminarians and priests,” Tornelli continued.

Although the newsman is willing to believe that the Vatican had never heard allegations McCarrick had abused boys, he finds it difficult to understand how it was “possible to appoint a prelate from Metuchen to Newark, and then…from Newark to Washington (with cardinal promotion)” who had paid damages to “his own [adult] victims of harassment.”  

Tornelli observes that only men who are proven to have mature personalities should be made priests, let alone bishops and cardinals. He underscores that the sexual abuse of children and young men is not tied to personal ideology – Groer was considered a conservative – but to a flaw in the process of appointing bishops.

“The McCarrick case … represents a significant alarm signal that is not simply linked to the problem of pedophilia or abuse of adolescents, but once again questions those responsible for the processes and the criteria determining the choice through which the bishops are selected,” Tornelli concluded.

His focus on actively-abusive prelates does not mean Tornelli sympathizes with the porn-using monsignor, however. Commenting wryly on Capella’s explanation that he had turned to porn to cope with loneliness, Tornelli wrote, “Obviously the prelate had to have a predisposition for that kind of shocking images, which include children filmed in sexual acts and abuses, because fortunately child pornography is not a widespread landing place for personal crises or excessive loneliness.”