Cardinal McCarrick’s faulty memory

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jun 21, 2018

As he revealed that he had been accused of sexual abuse, Cardinal McCarrick made an interesting protestation of innocence: “While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse…”

The accusation, which a review board found credible, occurred almost fifty years ago, the cardinal reported. So it would be asking too much to expect precise memories. Still… Well, let me illustrate.

Imagine that I made statements along the following lines:

  1. Gee, that was almost fifty years ago! I have absolutely no recollection of…
    • …seeing Hannah Arendt interviewed on television.
    • …watching my little brother play blackgammon.
    • …swimming in the neighbor’s pool at midnight.
  2. Gee, that was almost fifty years ago! I have absolutely no recollection of…
    • …being chosen 3rd in the NBA draft.
    • …redesigning the Rolls-Royce aircraft engine.
    • …accompanying Joan Sutherland on the piano.
  3. Gee, that was almost fifty years ago! I have absolutely no recollection of…
    • …being chased by a leopard.
    • …riding in the co-pilot’s seat of my friend’s Cessna.
    • …going out for drinks with Catherine Deneuve.

The statements in the 1st category involve things that I don’t specifically recall, but could possibly have occurred. My memory could be shown faulty, by someone’s diary or a fortuitous home-movie clip.

The statements in the 2nd category involve things that could not possibly have happened to me; they are constitutionally impossible.

The statements in the 3rd category involve things that could theoretically have occurred, but if they had, I would most certainly not have forgotten them.

So, your Eminence, in which category do you wish us to place your failure of memory?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 23, 2018 4:03 PM ET USA

    The shrink may be more right that he thinks he is. Not only is it OUR problem, but it is OUR problem with a vengeance. Every layman is now under suspicion. The "rules" say we cannot trust each other. Laymen cannot trust clergy, clergy cannot trust laymen, clergy cannot trust clergy, laymen cannot trust laymen. In August I will be handing out form upon form upon form to parents and catechists, forms filled with warnings, disclaimers, signature lines--a pile of paper that is supposed to protect...

  • Posted by: shrink - Jun. 22, 2018 10:15 AM ET USA

    Perhaps there were just too many sexual events for Uncle Ted to keep track of. But, Uncle Ted's seminarian pets, who are now priests and bishops, will never forget Uncle Ted. And they are not talking. And if history foretells the future, these priests and bishops will remain selectively paralyzed about all matters sexual. Thus, Uncle Ted made his problem, their problem, and their problem has been OUR problem for many decades now.

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Jun. 22, 2018 3:07 AM ET USA

    To me the question is not whether he did what he is accused of. His "I do not recall" response is an admission at least that he did such things but does not remember the particulars. The more serious question is how this man was promoted to the highest levels of the Church without anyone speaking up. Or perhaps someone did speak up and he was still promoted. That would be even more disturbing. We need to get to the bottom of this and I am not confident that the clergy are willing to do so.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jun. 21, 2018 8:36 PM ET USA

    How could he not recall that at least two cases of abuse were settled out of court?

  • Posted by: koinonia - Jun. 21, 2018 6:39 PM ET USA

    I saw on the news today that the CEO of Intel was forced to resign for a consensual relationship with an employee that was forbidden by the company policy. The executives are not to engage in such relationships- even if consensual- with subordinate employees. He was forced to resign. Perhaps there is something Church administrators can learn from the way these things are handled at the corporate level. Cut the cord and do it right away. Makes things a heck of a lot less bad.