Roma (CNN) — The late Pope John Paul II was warned about Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct allegations, but decided to promote him to Archbishop of Washington anyway after McCarrick denied it and an investigation by American bishops that revealed “inaccurate information and incomplete, “as concluded an internal Vatican investigation on Tuesday.
The report on the Vatican’s handling of the highest-ranking Church figure to be expelled for sexual abuse comes after two years of investigation and years of scrutiny into how McCarrick was allowed to rise through the Catholic hierarchy.
Elevated to a cardinal in 2001 by John Paul II, a year after becoming Archbishop of Washington, McCarrick became a powerful actor in both the Church and Washington, and was known for his fundraising and influence.
He resigned from the College of Cardinals in 2018 and was expelled from the Vatican last year after a Church trial found him guilty of sexually abusing minors.
The Vatican report appears to largely absolve Pope Francis of guilt.
“Until 2017, no one … provided Pope Francis with any documentation regarding the allegations against McCarrick,” read the report’s executive summary.
“Pope Francis had only heard that there were allegations and rumors regarding immoral conduct with adults that occurred prior to McCarrick’s appointment in Washington,” the report said, adding that Francis initially believed “that the allegations had already been reviewed and rejected by Pope John Paul II.
The report details the allegations against McCarrick at the time Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Washington, which according to the report fell into four categories.
The allegations included a priest who claimed to have observed McCarrick engaging in sexual conduct with another priest; anonymous letters accusing him of pedophilia; that McCarrick was known to “share a bed with young adult men at the bishop’s residence in Metuchen and Newark”; and that he was “known to have shared a bed with adult seminarians in a beach house on the New Jersey shore.”
Those alleged incidents related to McCarrick’s time as Bishop of Metuchen, from 1981 to 1986, and as Archbishop of Newark, from 1986 to 2000. John Paul II appointed him to both positions and personally made the decision to appoint him Archbishop of Washington, according to the report.
A two-year investigation
The Vatican report on Tuesday does not focus on McCarrick’s alleged abuses or his guilt under canon law, but instead sheds light on what the Holy See knew about him and when.
However, the report notes that, over the course of the two-year investigation, “numerous people who had direct physical contact with McCarrick were interviewed”
“During lengthy, often emotional interviews, people described a variety of behaviors, including sexual abuse or assault, unwanted sexual activity, intimate physical contact, and sharing beds without physical contact. These interviews also included detailed accounts of McCarrick’s abuse of authority and power, ”it said.
The report claims that Pope Benedict XVI called for McCarrick’s resignation in 2005, after “accusations of harassment and abuse of adults began to surface once again.”
He adds that the Vatican’s Office of Bishops told McCarrick orally in 2006 and in writing in 2008 to retire from public life, but that he ignored those recommendations.
The report says that Pope Francis was also aware of “rumors related to immoral conduct with adults” before McCarrick’s appointment in Washington, but decided not to take any further steps not to alter “the course taken by his predecessors.”
When the first allegation of sexual abuse of a minor emerged in 2018, Pope Francis’ response was “immediate” according to the report, removing the now-former cardinal from the priesthood.