O’Connor wrote in 1999 that authoritative sources had told him that stories about McCarrick frequently arranging for seminarians to visit a New Jersey beach house circulated in the dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, specifically that “the arrangement was for seven seminarians, six of whom shared the guestrooms and one of whom shared the bed with the Archbishop.”
He said that a key authority had informed him that he believed “that some problem did occur involving at least one person, perhaps a priest, and that Bishop Hughes handled that personally and secretly.”
O’Connor said that he had personally asked a priest psychologist of New York archdiocese to speak with the psychiatrist who was treating a priest involved.
“Both the priest psychologist and the psychiatrist seem convinced that the priests or priests (sic) in treatment were victimized, willingly or unwillingly, in their inappropriate relationship with the then Bishop McCarrick, while Bishop of Metuchen,” O’Connor wrote in the letter. He added that he did not find these findings “definitely persuasive,” but could not dismiss their findings “because of the gravity of the allegations.”
O’Connor also raised concerns about McCarrick’s “seemingly incessant need to travel outside of the archdiocese to different parts of the world,” saying that he questioned whether there could be “any relationship between this seeming need to travel outside the archdiocese and his apparently having put his former alleged inclinations behind him.”
Cardinal O’Connor led the Archdiocese of New York from 1984 until his death on May 3, 2000. He was a major figure of American Catholicism and an outspoken defender of the faith and Catholic moral teaching.
The report notes that O’Connor conducted “the first known inquiry related to concerns over McCarrick’s conduct.” In the early 1990s, O’Connor investigated anonymous complaints against McCarrick ahead of a potential papal visit to Newark. He concluded that allegations of possible misconduct with adults would not present an issue if the pope were to visit Newark.
In 1997, McCarrick was being considered to lead the Archdiocese of Chicago. While he was generally praised as a strong candidate, O’Connor questioned whether he would provide the “firmness necessary to ‘compensate’ for the prevailing permissiveness” following the tenure of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the report said. However, it added that O’Connor “admitted” that McCarrick could be effective in addressing theological abuses. McCarrick was ultimately not selected for the role.
The 1999 letter from O’Connor is included in the 449-page McCarrick Report on pages 131-140. The report indicates that “it is reasonable to infer” that Bishop James T. McHugh, the former auxiliary bishop of Newark, and Bishop Edward T. Hughes, the bishop emeritus of Metuchen, were O’Connor’s sources of information regarding these allegations.
O’Connor wrote that John Paul II had made clear to him in a meeting early in the summer of 1999 that he was considering appointing McCarrick to another diocese, potentially as O’Connor’s successor in New York.
After this, O’Connor expressed concern to the nuncio Montalvo in late July, saying that he was aware of “some elements of a moral nature that advised against” McCarrick’s consideration. Montalvo requested that O’Connor put his concerns in writing.
O’Connor’s letter is dated Oct. 28, only weeks after the cardinal’s release from hospital following surgery to remove a brain tumor. O’Connor died from this tumor the following May.
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In the letter, O’Connor wrote that he was concerned by events related to him by “absolutely impeccable authorities as occurring in the Archdiocese of Newark during this past year.”
Among these is that “after Archbishop McCarrick was appointed as Ordinary, it was said that he would frequently invite male visitors for dinner and to stay overnight. Usually they shared a bed, although there were sufficient guestrooms … This did not become known outside the house, but it was a cause of concern for those who live there.”
Cardinal O’Connor also recommended to the nuncio several people that he could follow up with for further information regarding McCarrick, including Bishop McHugh and the attorney of the Archdiocese of Newark, Thomas Durkin, noting that the lawyer had “spoken with him [McCarrick] very forthrightly about rumors and allegations cited above.”
Upon receiving the letter, Montalvo forwarded it to the Congregation for Bishops and to the Secretariat of State. Archbishop Giovanni Battista Re, at that time the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, informed Pope John Paul II of Cardinal O’Connor’s letter, according to the report.
Montalvo left it to Re to “inform the Holy Father as to the matter in the manner you deem appropriate,” according to a handwritten note sent to Re.
O’Connor’s letter was sent the day after a letter sent by Nuncio Montalvo to the Congregation for Bishops describing Washington Cardinal James Aloysius Hickey’s endorsement of McCarrick as his first choice for the New York see, and acknowledging concern from Cardinal Bernard Francis Law that “vague allusions are enough to damage the position of a person.”