Did McCarrick use charitable fund to settle abuse claim?

Theodore McCarrick Credit  Chip Somodevilla   Getty Images News  1 Theodore McCarrick. | Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images News.

The Vatican's Nov. 10 McCarrick Report has raised new questions about the finances of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and his use of the Archbishop's Fund, an account he maintained for charitable purposes, first in Newark and then in Washington, D.C.

In particular, the report notes that McCarrick contributed thousands of dollars to settle a claim, with the money likely coming from his discretionary charitable fund.

In 2005, while McCarrick was Archbishop of Washington, "it appears that he sent $10,000 to the Diocese of Metuchen at the time that [a settlement and nondisclosure agreement] was entered into, and that the amount was intended as a contribution to the Diocese's settlement with Priest 2," who reported being among those McCarrick took to his beach house in New Jersey, according to the Vatican report.

The source of that $10,000 is not explained in the report. The report says in several places that McCarrick did not draw a diocesan salary or pension. A layman who reviewed McCarrick's tax returns in Washington told the Vatican that the former cardinal "never showed any income from the diocese at all."

McCarrick's apparent lack of ordinary income raises the possibility that funds under his control and raised for charitable purposes were used to contribute to the settlement of a claim of sexual abuse.

The Archbishop's Fund, CNA has previously reported, was established by McCarrick during his time as Archbishop of Newark and transferred with him to the Archdiocese of Washington. It included donations personally solicited and received by McCarrick, including from grant making organizations of which he was a board member. Among several instances identified by CNA, two donations McCarrick arranged to his own fund amounted to $500,000.

Although it fell under the archdiocese's charitable auspices, McCarrick maintained sole control of the fund, through which he channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In the McCarrick Report, the former cardinal described the fund and how it was used:

"If [donors] made [a check] out to me for charity for what I thought was best, then I could use it for anything charitable. If they made out the check for something specific then it would have to be used for that, of course," McCarrick said.

The Archdiocese of Washington has previously told CNA that the Archbishop's Fund – which remained under McCarrick's control until 2018 - was designated for his "personal works of charity and other miscellaneous expenses."

A spokesman for the archdiocese told CNA in 2018 that the fund was audited annually and "no irregularities were ever noticed," although those audits were never included in diocesan financial statements or reports. 

Sources close to the archdiocesan chancery have told CNA that annual expenditures were examined only to ensure a "broadly charitable" purpose or a "reasonable" miscellaneous expense, and that McCarrick had direct and unsupervised control of how funds were spent, even after his retirement.

It is not clear whether the fund also supported McCarrick's regular living expenses. Sources familiar with McCarrick's personal finances have previously described them to CNA as "modest, in keeping with what one might expect of a parish priest."

In addition to raising issues regarding contribution to a legal settlement, the McCarrick Report also noted that the former cardinal maintained "customary gift-giving to Roman Curia and Nunciature officials, a practice that continued through 2017."

The report includes several references to the practice, and footnotes instances of McCarrick regularly offering gifts of money to individual Vatican officials, but does not disclose their names or offices.

The report's executive summary concluded that "the record appears to show that although McCarrick's fundraising skills were weighed heavily, they were not determinative with respect to major decisions made relating to McCarrick, including his appointment to Washington in 2000."

"In addition, the examination did not reveal evidence that McCarrick's customary gift-giving and donations impacted significant decisions made by the Holy See regarding McCarrick during any period," the report found.

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Despite this assertion, the report includes various instances in which McCarrick received or disbursed money, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars at a time, despite having no apparent personal income of his own.

Although the Archdiocese of Washington has repeatedly declined to answer questions about McCarrick's use of the Archbishop's Fund, multiple senior sources familiar with archdiocesan records sent to Rome for the report have confirmed to CNA that the records include the names of individuals, including senior Vatican figures, to whom McCarrick made large payments from the fund.

In February 2019, the Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that although the account was held under the umbrella of the archdiocese, the funds were considered to be McCarrick's own to use as he wished. This notwithstanding, in July 2019, a former financial advisor to the archdiocese told CNA that the fund was, for accounting and tax-exemption purposes, archdiocesan money.

McCarrick formally surrendered control of the Archbishop's Fund to his successor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, in 2018, after allegations of sexual abuse were made public. 

The final balance of the fund at the time McCarrick turned over control was, according to the McCarrick Report, approximately $500,000.

The Archdiocese of Washington did not respond Nov. 11 to requests from CNA for comment.

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