U.S. bishops are standing by the effectiveness of the Dallas Charter, but looking for a way to address a new set of problems involving bishops' accountability and the abuse of adults. After being told in Baltimore to wait for Rome to take the lead, some now wonder why their concerns seem not to have made it to the agenda.
At the same time that Rome has been eager to downplay expectations around the abuse summit, curial officials (though not, it must be said, in the CDF) have been talking up a McCarrick conviction and laicization.
It is no secret that, whatever else they may disagree on, bishops in the United States and Rome are unified in understanding McCarrick's departure as a necessary turning-of-the-page on the scandals of last year and a clearing of the deck before next week's summit.
But, despite feverish speculation about the timing of an announcement, no decision has yet been published. Moreover, there is no clear indication that any guilty verdict would explicitly include reference to the accusations that McCarrick preyed upon seminarians.
Those victims, to say nothing of seminarians and the faithful across the United States, are waiting anxiously for some sign that their suffering, too, has been addressed. Yet the indications coming out of Rome appear, at best, not to have heard their concerns.
There is no disagreement, anywhere, that a priest (or any adult) who sexually abuses a child has committed one of the worst crimes imaginable. In the context of the U.S. Church, there is no shortage of consensus about how seriously such cases should be dealt with. Where consensus breaks down is at the other end of the age spectrum during adolescence.
Figures from both the United States and other countries indicate that the vast majority of clerical sexual abuse cases concern homosexual relations with teenagers.
While McCarrick faces multiple charges of sexually abusing minors as well as adults, the first accusation made public by the Archdiocese of New York underscores the problematic line between sexual abuse of a minor and an illicit encounter with an adult.
The accusation announced by New York in June concerned a former altar server who alleged he had been abused by McCarrick when he was 17 in the early 1970s.
While this announcement had the effect of prompting additional accusations against the then-cardinal, it was quietly noted by astute canon lawyers that, under the operative canon law of the time, the alleged victim was not – strictly speaking – a minor.
In civil and canon law, the necessity of an age of consent creates a kind of moral-legal disconnect. A relationship between a man and a boy a day before his eighteenth birthday is a grave crime; twenty-four hours later it becomes categorized in law only as a regrettable moral lapse – even if the victim was a seminarian coerced by his bishop.
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It would be a bitter irony for many of McCarrick's alleged victims if the implicit lesson of his conviction - reinforced by the limited agenda for next week's summit - was that only abuse of legally defined minors merits the Church's discipline.
While the potential for grave harm and injustice has become abundantly clear in recent months, engaging with the messy facts of cases at the upper end of the age spectrum is something for which Rome seems to have little interest or appetite.
Until that changes, it seems clear that, whenever an announcement is made about whatever fate awaits McCarrick, the former cardinal's shadow will still fall over next week's summit, and much of what follows for some time yet.
As many watch and wait for a McCarrick verdict, Rome instead announced that his most successful protégé, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, had been named cardinal camerlengo, regent of the Vatican during any future papal interregnum.
Farrell was for years one of McCarrick's closest advisors in Washington, serving as his vicar general and even sharing an apartment with him.
For his part, the new camerlengo insisted last summer that he never had any reason to suspect the apparently well-known rumors concerning his mentor.