Why the Cardinal McCarrick laicization matters

No more damning sentence could be imagined

The following comes from commentary written by George Weigel on Feb. 19 in First Things.

On Saturday, February 16, the Holy See announced that the former archbishop of Washington, Theodore Edgar McCarrick, had been “dismissed from the clerical state”—laicized—for the grave ecclesiastical crimes of sexual solicitation in the confessional and the sexual abuse of minors, compounded by the abuse of authority. Within a few hours, the Washington Post had a story up on its Web site, asking, in effect, so what? Or as a former Church employee put it to Post religion writer Michelle Boorstein, “The reality is that, leaving aside the issue of embarrassment, and I’d be cautious on that, what difference does it make to McCarrick?….Realistically, when we think of justice, what will he experience? And he will know in his heart of hearts that he’s still a priest.”

The last, of course, is true enough, in that neither the wickedness in which Theodore McCarrick engaged, nor the penal action of the Church, has destroyed the sacramental character he received on the day of his ordination. But what difference did his laicization make?  Let me suggest an answer. The difference it made is that, two days ago, Theodore McCarrick did not celebrate Sunday Mass for what was likely the first time in sixty years, eight months, and two weeks.

I have no idea what Mr. McCarrick’s present mental condition is, although he is said to be suffering from dementia and is not fully aware of what has happened to him since last June, when his crimes were first publicly revealed. But if this man who exercised the ministry of priest for more than six decades has any awareness of his situation, no more damning sentence—no more crushing penalty—could be imagined than the prohibition of celebrating Mass. Anyone who doesn’t understand that doesn’t understand the priesthood of the Catholic Church…..

McCarrick was not my friend; quite the opposite, in fact. But I can only hope that if, in whatever diminished way, he feels the pain of being forbidden to function as a priest at the altar, that pain is purifying and cleansing….

Read entire story here.

Comments

  1. Deacon Craig Anderson says

    I think it’s best to refer to McCarrick as “dismissed from the clerical state,” the canonical term. To call him “laicized” is insulting to the lay faithful. He was a very bad predator bishop who committed mortal sins and crimes and covered up the same and still has not publicly repented. He was promoted as a bishop. Then, when finally caught (again!) and exposed, to imply that he was made a lay person is not fair. He is simply a very bad bishop. As Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostom are said have asserted, “the floor of hell is paved with the skulls of rotten bishops.” Pray for his soul and, of course, don’t forget his victims.

    • Deacon Craig Anderson– The term “laicized” is just an objective legal term, used by the Church, when a cleric is stripped of the clerical state– and returned to the lay state This term does not demean the laity. A cleric may also request — for reasons of serious illness, or because they wish to stop being a priest/prelate, to get married, or because they wish to leave the Church– they may request to be stripped of the clerical state, and be returnee to the lay state. I think the Pope has to grant this. Laicization s not a punishment. It is similar to a soldier leaving military life, either honorably or dishonorably discharged– and returning to civilian life Nothing wrong with civilians!

      • Deacon Craig Anderson says

        I think, in canon law, the objective legal description is “dismissed from the clerical state.” Laicized is a shorter, popular term. Since you’re anonymous, I can’t tell if you’re a cleric (as I am) or a canon lawyer, but, I have had lay people tell me, and I concur, that it is insulting to use a term with “lay” in it in regards to a bad clergyman. Most of the lay faithful are faithful, as are most of our clerics. I respect the lay faithful and think terms they find disparaging should be avoided when other, more accurate, terms are available.

        • I understand your sensitivity. Being familiar with other organizations– such as the military– I am used to terms related to states of life– such as civilian life and military life– or in our Church, the life of the laity, and the clerical state. No emotional meaning, for me. The greatest emotional meaning I have ever seen– is with retired military officers, who always want you to remember, that they are “(Ret.) Lt. Col. So-and-So.” With Theodore McCarrick– it bothers me, because to laicize him– is not enough!– how about a “court-martial?” An Excommunication? No penance– no punishments?? Only stripped of the clerical state?? That’s all??

        • I understand your sensitivity. Being familiar with other organizations– such as the military– I am used to terms related to states of life– such as civilian life and military life– or in our Church, the life of the laity, and the clerical state. No emotional meaning, for me. The greatest emotional meaning I have ever seen– is with retired military officers, who always want you to remember, that they are “(Ret.) Lt. Col. So-and-So.” With Theodore McCarrick– it bothers me, because to laicize him– is not enough!– how about a “court-martial?” An Excommunication? No penance– no punishments?? And no sorrow for sin??

        • To me, Deacon Craig– it is not enough, for McCarrick to just be stripped of his clerical status! Not enough! Where is his penance and punishment for sin?? Not even something like– “Now, you go and sin no more!” Nothing?? Just a “slap on the wrist?” How about– “now you are free, you can lead a jolly life, you are a layman with no responsibilities– just go out and play, seduce young men at your beach house, go to lunch with your many USCCB and Vatican friends— have a jolly time!” Is that it??

        • Deacon Craig–Perhaps, as a member of the clergy– you can tell us if Theodore McCarrick is also dispensed from his vows of celibacy. In some cases, in which a cleric is laicized– he may or may not also be given a dispensation from the vow of celibacy, by the Pope! Celibacy is an important part of the Latin Rite Sacrament of Holy Orders– in which an indelible mark is now present eternally, upon the cleric’s soul! Can you tell us more about this?? Right after Vatican II ended– lots of priests sadly, requested to be laicized, with dispensations from vows of celibacy– so they could get married!

          • When a priest is dismissed from the clerical state they are no longer bound to their vows and they no longer have to obey any superiors. I don’t know why they do this. But I guess it is not ok to keep someone as a priest just so you can control where they live and who they live with either.

          • Anonymous– “…just so you can control where they live and who they live with either???” Really?? The holy priesthood is very serious! Hopefully– they are responsible to their superiors! Suppose the priest lives in a beach house– with McCarrick, and a bunch of underage boys?? Want his superiors to investigate– and hold him responsible for his priestly life??

      • To me, Deacon Craig– it is not enough, for McCarrick to just be stripped of his clerical status! Not enough! Where is his penance and punishment for sin?? Not even something like– “Now, you go and sin no more!” Nothing?? Just a “slap on the wrist?” How about– “now you are free, you can lead a jolly life, you are a layman with no responsibilities– just go out and play, seduce young men at your beach house, go to lunch with your many USCCB and Vatican friends— have a jolly time!” Is that it??

        • Deacon Craig Anderson says

          To all, I concur, McCarrick being dismissed from the clerical state is not enough. (I just don’t want the lay faithful insulted in the process.) Excommunication, for the good of both the Church and his soul, seems appropriate to me. He has yet to repent, at least publicly, for his very public sins and crimes. Also, of course, he should face justice for any crimes he has committed. (In my secular vocation, I help bring criminals to justice.) A relatively minor point, but, since asked, most priests and deacons make promises, religious take vows. The Church treats them differently. And, of course, we’ll still be priests and deacons in hell if we die in unrepented mortal sin.

  2. Your Fellow Catholic says

    Well, it seems to me fitting. It is one thing – however abhorrent – for a priest to have side daliances. And many many do. It is quite another for him to use the administration of sacraments to obtain sin. And if it is true that he used the confessional as a way to proposition for sex, then he abused the sacraments to obtain sin. God have mercy on him, because I surely cannot.

    Laicization is the most lenient punishment the Church should have in such a case, IMHO.

  3. I think all Catholic clerics who are convicted of sex abuse (not only accused– but convicted of a crime, in both civil and Church courts) should be laicized. And the Pope should give them a short lecture on their sins– and a PENANCE!! In some cases– EXCOMMUNICATION is appropriate and necessary!

  4. Sadly, in this case– to be laicized is not a punishment! I think most people want to see this evil sex predator receive punishment! So– where is it?? Isn’t this man — too babied??

  5. I just read a very long, tragic letter to the Pope, from a Deacon’s wife, whose son– an altar boy– got molested at age 16, by their once-trusted and loved parish priest, with whom her husband, the Deacon, had worked, for many long years! It took her poor, anguished son three long years, to finally tell his parents about it! The family is deeply shocked and wounded! For those three years– their priest– whom they saw and worked with daily, at the church! — never once confessed to this horrible crime, done to their dear son! No moral conscience! He is now in a trial, in court, for this crime. It is devastating to the family! I am so sorry for them!

  6. Bernard Law died a Cardinal. Roger Mahoney still has his red hat. At least McCarrick is a step in the correct direction.

  7. Now it is time for McCarrick to be criminally prosecuted and put in jail. Keep in mind that it was McCarrick who co-officiated the glorious Requiem Mass for the sexually promiscuous Ted Kennedy.. Even birds of prey flock together.

    • Just as I suspected. A great deal of the abhorrence at McCarrick is really political. People do not like his politics and the manner with which he thumbed his at those at the right either in politics or in the Church. And so many of you, judging from the comments here, wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than the death penalty. People are about vengeance and politics, and are wanting the power of the Chirch which is about mercy and forgiveness to satisfy your need for vengeance. Pitiful.

      • Not “vengeance,” as you mistakenly think! People are naturally upset because there is no Higher Authority in the Catholic Church to control crime any more! Their children are unsafe! Aren’t you worried too??

      • Jon — don’t you know– that “bad Catholic clerics,” such as McCarrick and Mahoney and many others– have officiated at big public functions, historical also, for the U.S.—- with plenty of pomp and glory!—- such as big funerals for famous Catholic politicians! Sadly, Kennedy was an immoral “Pelosi/Cuomo” kind of “Catholic!” Was it right for him to receive a Catholic funeral/burial??

  8. I understand your sensitivity. Being familiar with other organizations– such as the military– I am used to terms related to states of life– such as civilian life and military life– or in our Church, the life of the laity, and the clerical state. No emotional meaning, for me. The greatest emotional meaning I have ever seen– is with retired military officers, who always want you to remember, that they are “(Ret.) Lt. Col. So-and-So.” With Theodore McCarrick– it bothers me, because to laicize him– is not enough!– how about a “court-martial?” An Excommunication? No penance– no punishments?? And no sorrow for sin??

  9. Jon — don’t you know– that “bad Catholic clerics,” such as McCarrick and Mahoney and many others– have officiated at big public functions, historical also, for the U.S.—- with plenty of pomp and glory!—- such as big funerals for famous Catholic politicians! Sadly, Kennedy was an immoral “Pelosi/Cuomo” kind of “Catholic!” Was it right for him to receive a Catholic funeral/burial??

  10. Anonymous– “…just so you can control where they live and who they live with either???” Really?? The holy priesthood is very serious! Hopefully– they are responsible to their superiors! Suppose the priest lives in a beach house– with McCarrick, and a bunch of underage boys?? Want his superiors to investigate– and hold him responsible for his priestly life??

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