Washington (AFP) – A US cardinal gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to powerful Catholic clerics including two popes while facing accusations of sexual harassment, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
Pope Francis defrocked Theodore McCarrick in February over accusations he abused a teenager 50 years earlier.
The cardinal had already been known for having sex with adult seminarians, and Francis was accused of ignoring sexual assault accusations against McCarrick for years.
Starting in 2001, and for nearly two decades, McCarrick sent checks totaling more than $600,000 to clerics in Rome and elsewhere, the Post reported, citing church ledgers and former church officials.
Among more than 100 recipients were people directly involved in assessing misconduct claims against McCarrick, the newspaper reported.
The checks were drawn from the “Archbishop’s Special Fund” in Washington. It enabled him to raise money from wealthy Catholic donors and spend it with little oversight, former officials told the Post.
McCarrick sent Pope John Paul II $90,000 between 2001 and 2005. Pope Benedict XVI received $291,000, most of it in a single check in 2005, the Post said.
It cited a former personal secretary to John Paul as saying donations were forwarded to the Vatican’s powerful secretary of state. The Post said such gifts may also have been directed to papal charities.
Vatican clerics who received checks told the Post McCarrick’s gifts were used for proper purposes. Pope Francis does not appear among the list of check recipients, according to the ledgers reviewed by the Post.
Francis has promised a policy of “zero tolerance” even for high-ranking church members, and in May passed a landmark measure to oblige those who know about sex abuse in the Church to report it to their superiors.
The Catholic Church has been rocked by a global pedophilia scandal, with victims coming forward from countries including Australia, Chile and Germany as well as the United States.
In January a Vatican court found McCarrick guilty of “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power”.
He was the first cardinal ever to be defrocked for sex abuse, and had already been barred from practicing as a priest in July 2018.
The Vatican declined to comment on the Post’s revelations.