Cardinal Tobin reportedly declined to investigate McCarrick misconduct rumors

CNA 5b7edcbf501ec 145895 Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark moderates a panel at the 2018 World Meeting of Families. | Daniel Ibanez / CNA

Cardinal Joseph Tobin told a journalist Friday that he heard rumors shortly after his 2017 arrival in the Archdiocese of Newark about the sexual misconduct of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. He said he did not investigate those rumors because he found them unbelievable.

In a column published Aug. 31 in the North Jersey Record, journalist Mike Kelly reported that "Tobin told me that soon after arriving in Newark, he heard 'rumors' about McCarrick's beach house. But he never bothered to check them out. He says he thought the story was too 'incredulous' to believe."

"Shame on me that I didn't ask sooner," Tobin reportedly told Kelly. 

McCarrick served as Archbishop of Newark from 1986 to 2000.

The Archdiocese of Newark declined to comment on when Tobin was informed that McCarrick was under investigation in New York for an allegation that he had serially sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s. A source close to Cardinal Donald Wuerl, McCarrick's successor as Archbishop of Washington, told CNA that Wuerl learned of the investigation in 2017.

On June 20, 2018, the Archdiocese of New York announced it had found the allegation against McCarrick to be credible. After that announcement, reports surfaced alleging that for decades McCarrick sexually coerced and assaulted seminarians and young priests. Several reports alleged that McCarrick regularly took seminarians to a New Jersey beach house, where he is reported to have sexually assaulted some of them.

The Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen also acknowledged June 20 that they had reached legal settlements with some alleged victims of McCarrick in 2005 and 2007.

Tobin told Kelly that he did not learn about those settlements until June 2018, shortly before they were publicly announced.

Tobin did not specify what he found "incredulous" about the McCarrick rumors he heard after arriving in the Archdiocese of Newark. But the cardinal has previously been involved in addressing situations connected to serious sexual misconduct in the Church.

Tobin served from 2010 to 2012 as secretary to the Vatican office overseeing religious life.

Months before Tobin began working in that office, the Vatican concluded an apostolic visitation- an investigation- into the Legion of Christ, a men's religious order founded by Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, who, in 2005 was removed from public ministry after he was found to have fathered children, and maintained several properties at which he reportedly sexually abused minors and seminarians connected to the order.

Tobin told Vatican journalist John Allen in 2010 that his Vatican office would want to "stay informed" on the situation of the Legion of Christ.

Crux reported in 2016 that Tobin "was also responsible for the visit and reform of the male communities in Ireland during the sex abuse crisis in the country" while he was working in the Vatican.

In May 2016, the Vatican appointed Tobin to oversee the reform of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a "society of apostolic life," consisting of laymen and priests. (CNA's executive director, Alejandro Bermudez, is a member of the group). The Sodalitium was founded by Peruvian Luis Fernando Figari, who is reported to have physically, psychologically, and sexually abused young men, and who is forbidden by the Vatican from having contact with members of the Sodalitium.  

Tobin told Kelly he plans to initiate an archdiocesan investigation into the reasons he was not told about McCarrick's alleged sexual misconduct.

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