Then-archbishop McCarrick was heavily involved with the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE)— counterpart male religious order to the SSVM— which was founded in 1984 in Argentina.
McCarrick was reportedly close to the IVE. As archbishop of Washington, he oversaw the relocation of the IVE novitiate from the Diocese of San Jose, California to his archdiocese. He often ordained members of the order’s Immaculate Conception province, doing so as late as 2017.
Cardinal McCarrick lived with the IVE community at St. John Baptist de la Salle during his retirement, after residing for a period at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of the Archdiocese of Washington.
Harber said McCarrick would occasionally come over to the SSVM convent for meals. He was a major donor the community, akin to the order's "benefactor," Harber said.
"We kind of had to fawn on him. He was always around, and he always had seminarians. And it just kind of gave you that icky feeling, you know?" she said.
In 2016, the Vatican affirmed the veracity of allegations that the IVE's founder, Father Carlos Miguel Buela, engaged in sexual improprieties with adult seminarians of his community.
It wasn't until the revelations of 2018 that Harber, along with most of the rest of the Church, learned about the allegations against McCarrick. She says some former IVE members she talked with after the allegations were made public said they had already known about McCarrick's misconduct.
"Among the brothers, it was a well known fact. Among the sisters, we didn't know as much," Harber said, but added that she was not surprised when the revelations came out.
"This is a man we shared meals with...I think what disgusted me the most and probably what triggered me the most was watching the coverup that happened."
With her own experience of abuse, the diocese's initial response was even more hurtful than the rape itself, she said. Her abuser remained at Harber's parish for several months, and as far as Harber knows he remains a priest today in Nigeria.
Harber said she had a similar feeling reading the McCarrick Report and seeing how many people heard the rumors surrounding him, yet did not take action. In both cases, a fear of scandal prevented the truth coming to light, she said.
(Story continues below)
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"I don't think there's the fullness of the truth in that report. If history has taught us anything, it's that they have not been forthcoming. And it's just been incredibly sad," she said.
Several survivors noted to CNA with sadness that McCarrick's denials of allegations against him appeared to go relatively untested.
Cardinal John O’Connor of New York in 1999 wrote a letter to the U.S. apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, objecting to McCarrick’s potential appointment to higher office, on the basis of existing allegations of misconduct, including incidents involving sharing a bed with seminarians at a New Jersey beach house.
In mid-2000, the report states, McCarrick wrote a letter meant to rebut O'Connor's allegations, stating that “In the seventy years of my life, I have never had sexual relations with any person, male or female, young or old, cleric or lay, nor have I ever abused another person or treated them with disrespect.”
"McCarrick’s denial was believed and the view was held that, if allegations against McCarrick were made public, McCarrick would be able to refute them easily," the report says.
Harber said she was unsurprised by McCarrick's apparent lie, saying it is common that an abuser's denial will be taken at face value, as happened with her abuser.