The 88-year-old deposed Cardinal living — at least for a while — near my hometown

The St. Fidelis Basilica, known as the cathedral of the Plains, is in Victoria Kansas, not far from where I was raised in Colby, Kansas.

My hometown of Colby Kansas, sits just  north of Interstate 70 in Northwest Kansas. Victoria, Kansas (about 100 miles to the east of Colby) sits immediately south of Interstate 70.

Victoria is the home to the beautiful Cathedral of the Plains. Since last September it has been the home of deposed 88-year-old Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, stepped down from active ministry last summer (2018) after credible allegations of sexual abuse of seminarians and one who said McCarrick abused him was he was 11. Hundreds and hundreds of priests have been accused of sexual abuse, but not cardinals.

Last fall McCarrick was given permission by a Kansas Bishop to move to a home for priests in tiny Victoria, Kansas (population 1,000) — Frankly, out in the middle of nowhere. When McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals last July, after long being thought to be sexually abusive to young Catholic seminarians, the Vatican directed him to live out his days in a “life of prayer and penance.”

Many, many times when I was growing up I drove by the majestic limestone Catholic Church. It sits about 3 miles south of I-70 and is visible for miles on the sparsely populated Kansas High Plains. One day a few years ago I drove my mom into Victoria and we walked around the church.

 

Here is Pope Francis accepting Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation last year. My how the mighty have fallen.

 

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This past week the 88-year old priest was defrocked (actually laicized) by the Catholic Church law for sexual misconduct. That means he was completely and finally ousted from the priesthood. This kind of discipline rarely happens to Cardinals. McCarrick is no long a priest. It’s permanent. He’s out!  And he cannot appeal.

He is the first cardinal ever to be laicized for sexual misconduct. I read today that the 88-year-old former priest apparently can stay in the home for priests in Victoria, Kansas, temporarily, until he has a place to go.  But he can’t stay at the Friary in Victoria indefinitely. It’s a place where priests live, and McCarrick is not a priest anymore. I try to imagine this man, nearing 90 years old, sitting in the friary out in tiny Victoria, Kansas. It’s pretty pitiful and pretty sad. And now he has to soon leave his Kansas outpost.  Wow…

This has all happened on the eve of this week Pope Francis gathering 200 bishops and heads of religious orders from around the world for a global summit in Rome this week to discuss the crisis facing the Catholic Church over sexual abuse scandals.

The meeting starts on Feb. 21 and will last four days. It is likely to produce a new round of public apologies, expressions of concern for victims and pledges of reform. There needs to be a full accounting!

Even though I don’t think the Pontiff really had any choice in calling his leaders to Rome  — given the hundreds and hundreds of priests that are now known to have engaged in some form of sexual abuse — Francis is doing the right thing. May God be merciful this week in Rome!

If you have followed religion news at all in the last week, I doubt you are surprised that this fall from grace in the Catholic Church is an equal-opportunity employer. Hundreds of priests allegedly accused of sexual misconduct are sharing some of their shame with pastors and leaders in Protestant churches. Just last week the Houston Chronicle listed 700 victims in Southern Baptist Churches, exposing wide-spread sexual abuse allegedly committed by church leaders and volunteers.

The Church will triumph. Jesus will have his bride — Revelation 19:6-9, but I can see why people give up on the Church. When I look at the Church with my tiny human eyes it’s often hard to see past the bride of Christ’s muddy, torn dress and her bloodied nose.  Some days the Church looks like a total mess. I love my ministry and I hang in there, but when I see all this happening to both Catholics and Protestants, I admit I have sometimes thought, “Who in their right mind would want to be part of the Church?”

I guess I’ll have to agree with church father Erasmus who is said to have quipped, “The Church is a lot like the Ark. If it weren’t for the storm raging on the outside, you’d never be able to stand the stench on the inside.”

 

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