1968-1977: McCarrick was thrice considered for elevation to the office of Bishop. Fifty-two confidential inquiries were sent from the U.S. nunciature to people who had lived and worked with McCarrick - largely, priests and bishops - about McCarrick’s fitness for the office.
The responses return glowingly positive for McCarrick. Some concerns were raised that McCarrick might be “ambitious,” and that he sometimes lacked “candor.” But overall, he was recommended as a highly intelligent and competent man whose moral conduct was “beyond question.” There were no mentions of any concerns about misconduct.
Bishop of Metuchen and the first anonymous reports
November 1981: Pope John Paul II appointed McCarrick as Bishop of Metuchen in New Jersey, after again receiving glowing reviews of him in the terna evaluating him for the position.
1982-1986: As Bishop, McCarrick was successful in fundraising and fostering priestly vocations. He served on committees for the U.S. bishops’ conference and traveled extensively overseas, and met with Pope John Paul II on several brief occasions. He promoted annual spiritual retreats for clergy at a beach house on the Jersey Shore, and went on trips with his “nephews” - the teenage children of Catholic families in the area with whom he had fostered close relationships. Some of these young men shared a bed with McCarrick on overnight trips.
Mid 1980s: A New York Catholic mother, identified as “Mother 1”, sent out an anonymous letter to every Cardinal in the United States, as well as the papal nuncio, detailing concerns that McCarrick was “attracted to boys.” Mother 1’s family had grown close to McCarrick during his time in New York. Mother 1 grew suspicious after she observed McCarrick rubbing her sons’ inner thighs and chests, and when she was told he bought alcohol for the young men on overnight trips. Fearing backlash for speaking against the prominent cleric, she kept her identity anonymous. No copies of Mother 1’s letter were found for the McCarrick report.
Archbishop of Newark
May 24, 1986: Pope John Paul II appointed McCarrick, nearly 56 years old, as Archbishop of Newark, after receiving more strong recommendations from bishops in the U.S. None mentioned concerns regarding inappropriate behavior.
1986-2000: As Archbishop of Newark, McCarrick continued extensive international travels, mostly for work with the U.S. bishop’s conference on international affairs. McCarrick also served in U.S. government roles in the 1980s and 1990s, including committees focused on religious freedom and international affairs. Hence, McCarrick became known to many prominent international political and religious leaders, and built up an extensive network of connections.
McCarrick also frequently visited Rome for meetings at the Vatican. He often stayed at the Pontifical North American College during these trips, where he met American priests and seminarians, and attended public and private religious events with Pope John Paul II.
In the late 1980s, Archbishop McCarrick also helped create the Papal Foundation, using his connections and fundraising skills to fund charitable endeavors of the Vatican. He also began his decades-long practice of giving gifts to Curia and nunciature officials, as well as to prelates throughout the world.
Archbishop McCarrick was considered to be a capable and hard-working leader of Newark, where he fundraised money for poor parishes, fostered vocations and built Redemptoris Mater, a new diocesan seminary.
He had frequent reunions with the families he had grown close to in New York, and celebrated some of his “nieces and nephews” marriages and baptized their children. These reunions, attended by priests, seminarians and lay secretaries of the Archdiocese, were not reported to be of an unhealthy nature.
Accusations from seminarians and priests
1989-1996: Three priests, identified as Priest 1, Priest 3, and Priest 4, reported to Bishop Edward Hughes (McCarrick’s successor in Metuchen) instances sexual assault they suffered by McCarrick while he was in Metuchen. The accusations, reported in separate meetings, included sharing a bed with McCarrick and sexual touching and assault that occurred during overnight stays at the beach house at the Jersey shore while two of the priests were seminarians. One of the incidents, reported by Priest 3, occurred while he was a priest. These priests later said that Hughes listened to them, but either sent them on for therapy, or urged them to forgive McCarrick. There is no evidence that Hughes told anyone else of these priests’ reports of McCarrick’s misconduct.
January 1990: Monsignor Dominic Bottino, of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, attended a small celebration with McCarrick. Both Bottino and his Bishop, James Thomas McHugh, noticed McCarrick groping the crotch of a young priest. McHugh dismissed Bottino’s voiced concerns, and said that McCarrick was just “different.” Bottino told his spiritual director at the time of the incident, but no one else, since his bishop dismissed the incident.
1992-1993: Six anonymous letters and one pseudonymous letter alleging sexual misconduct by McCarrick were mailed to various Catholic prelates, including nuncio Cacciavillan, Cardinal O’Connor, and leaders of the U.S. bishop’s conference. The letters accuse McCarrick of pedophilia or incest and sharing beds with young men. Some of McCarrick’s “nephews” with whom he shared beds were his distant relatives.
The accusations against McCarrick at this time are dismissed on the basis of McCarrick’s good reputation, and due to the anonymity of the letter and the lack of specific accusations.
1993-1995: Newark is evaluated as a potential site for a papal visit by Pope John Paul II.
During this evaluation, Mother Mary Quentin Sheridan, Superior General of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma (Michigan), and a priest called Nuncio Cacciavillan about reports they had heard of seminarians abused by McCarrick. After consulting Cardinal James Hickey of Washington, D.C., about the allegations, Cacciavillan dismissed them as “possible slander or exaggeration.”
Hickey told the nuncio he knew McCarrick and his associates very well and had never heard of or seen any inappropriate behavior from McCarrick.
1995: Pope John Paul II visits Newark, and the visit proceeds without any report of scandal.
1996-1997: Priest 1 had been accused of sexual assault of two minors and was on leave. In the course of an evaluation of his fitness for ministry, Priest 1 told psychiatrist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons and priest-psychologist Msgr. James Cassidy of the sexual assault he witnessed and experienced at the hands of McCarrick. Cassidy reported the matter to Cardinal O’Connor, who told Bishop Hughes. In 2000, in an account to Nuncio Cacciavillan, Hughes stated that he was not sure whether to believe the report, as Priest 1 has a “history of blaming others for his own problems.”
March 1997: Dr. Fitzgibbons traveled to Rome to share the information he had received from Priest 1 with an official at the Congregation for Bishops. The Congregation unsuccessfully attempted to contact Priest 1. There is no evidence of further action taken.
Consideration for New York and Washington, D.C.
June-July 1999: Pope John Paul II tells Cardinal O’Connor that he was considering appointing McCarrick to the Archdiocese of New York.
July 1999: Cardinal O’Connor advised Nuncio Montalvo that McCarrick should not be elevated to New York due to moral issues. Montalvo asked O’Connor to put his concerns in writing.
October 27, 1999: Nuncio Montalvo sent a report to Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, regarding the Archbishopric of New York. Based on recommendations from U.S. bishops and cardinals, Montalvo recommended McCarrick for the position and noted he would be a “worthy member” of the College of Cardinals. He added that McCarrick has been accused of “misplaced affection” but that there was no supporting evidence.
October 28, 1999: After a delay for cancer treatment, Cardinal O’Connor wrote Montalvo with his concerns about McCarrick. O’Connor stated that it was common knowledge among clergy in the Archdiocese of Newark that McCarrick frequently shared beds with male guests, including priests and seminarians. He also noted that there had been a priest very close to McCarrick who accompanied him on at least one international trip who had since left the priesthood. Furthermore, he recalled that a psychologist and psychiatrist had confirmed the veracity of the claims of at least one priest who said he was victimized by McCarrick.
O’Connor also stated that McCarrick had written a letter of defense of a young man convicted of murdering a young woman. He also noted that the general attitude among clergy in Newark and Metuchen was that their concerns about McCarrick had been ignored.
Montalvo forwarded the letter to the Congregation for Bishops and to the Secretariat of State. Archbishop Re, then Substitute of the Secretariat of State, informed Pope John Paul II of the letter. At the request of the Pope, Re consulted Cacciavillan, who had been nuncio in the U.S. when most of the allegations against McCarrick had occurred.
Cacciavillan cast serious doubt on all six of O’Connors concerns, saying the incidents were just a few rumors. He added that McCarrick had not been given a chance to defend himself. Still, he recommended that McCarrick go to Washington D.C. instead of New York, because O’Connor had not recommended McCarrick as his successor.
November 22, 1999: Archbishop Re, per the request of the Pope, wrote to Montalvo, asking him to look into the claims against McCarrick at his convenience “for the sake of the truth.”
February 8, 2000: Cardinal Neve of the Congregation of Bishops told Montalvo that, based on the accusations against McCarrick, as well as his age (almost 70), he should not be transferred to a different diocese.
May-June 2000: Following the death of O’Connor, Montalvo investigated the claims against McCarrick. He asked Bishop James T. McHugh (Diocese of Rockville Centre, 1998-2000); Bishop Vincent D. Breen (Diocese of Metuchen, 1997-2000); Bishop Edward T. Hughes (Diocese of Metuchen, 1987-1997); and Bishop John M. Smith (Diocese of Trenton, 1997-2010), to send him any factual information or other observations about any moral weaknesses in McCarrick.
May 12, 2000: Bishop McHugh responds to Montalvo. He confirms knowledge of McCarrick sharing beds with seminarians, priests and other men, though he said he had not witnessed “improper behavior” but rather a “familiarity (that) was imprudent.” He confirmed McCarrick’s defense of the young man convicted of murder, and offered to be of further assitance.
May 16, 2000: Bishop Breen responds to Montalvo, saying he head rumors of “illicit activities with young men” but that he had no way to prove them. He recommends contacting Bishop Hughes for more information.
May 18, 2000: Bishop Smith responds to Montalvo. He said while he lived with McCarrick, he would be visited by his “nephews” from New York on occasion, and that they would sometimes spend the night, but never indicated the next morning that they were upset or that anything improper had happened. He said he would be “completely shocked” if an individual were to accuse McCarrick of serious wrongdoing or moral failure.
May 22, 2000: Bishop Hughes responds to Montalvo. He said he does not have factual information regarding McCarrick’s moral weaknesses. He noted that two priests who came forward with accusations, Priest 6 and Priest 1, did so in the course of admitting their own moral failures and may have been attempting to justify their actions. He recommends against McCarrick’s promotion, but also against disciplinary actions.
June 21, 2000: Montalvo sent his findings to Archbishop Re, informing him that his investigation found that accusations against McCarrick “are neither definitively proven nor completely groundless.” Based on this, he said, it would be “imprudent” to consider McCarrick for any kind of promotions.
May-July 2000: Montalvo received more endorsements for McCarrick’s appointment for Washington.
July 2000: Archbishop Re and Pope John Paul II concluded that it would be unwise to promote McCarrick to Washington, D.C.
August 6, 2000: McCarrick wrote to Bishop Stanisław Dziwisz, Pope John Paul II’s secretary, refuting the accusations against him. He said he was “tipped off” by a Curia friend about O’Connor’s letter which had “deeply attacked” him and left him “bewildered.”
“Your Excellency, sure I have made mistakes and may have sometimes lacked in prudence, but 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 wrote. “...if I understand the accusations that Cardinal O’Connor may have made, they are not true.”
McCarrick added that he would accept whatever decision the Holy Father made.
August 2000: Dziwisz delivered McCarrick’s letter to the Pope, who gave the letter to Archbishop Re. Re later said John Paul II had become convinced of McCarrick’s innocence after that letter.
Sept. 16, 2000: Pope John Paul II appointed Archbishop Re Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
Sept. 20, 2000: The secretary for the Congregation of Bishops wrote to Archbishop Cacciavillan and asked that McCarrick be reconsidered for the Washington Archbishopric based on his letter to Dziwisz pleading innocence.
September 25, 2000: In a written memorandum, Archbishop Cacciavillan recommended McCarrick to the Congregation for Bishops for the Washington position. He said McCarrick could defend himself against any accusations that may come to light with the appointment, since they were false.
October 2000: McCarrick traveled to Rome for a private audience with Dziwisz and Pope John Paul II. There is no record of what occurred in the meeting.
October 11, 2000: Re recommended McCarrick as one of two candidates for the Washington position to Pope John Paul II.
Cardinal McCarrick in Washington, D.C.
November 2000: Pope John Paul II appointed McCarrick as the Archbishop of Washington, D.C.
November 24, 2000: Dominican priest Boniface Ramsey, who taught at the seminary at Seton Hall University from the late