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Pope sends ‘signal’ by defrocking ex-cardinal for sexual abuse

Pope Francis has defrocked ex-Cardinal and Archbishop Theodore McCarrick after officials at the Vatican found him guilty of sexually abusing both minors and adults.The announcement made Saturday comes less than a week before international church leaders meet to address the sexual abuse crisis in the church. Rev. James Martin, editor-at-large for America magazine, joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Joining me in the studio to talk about the pope's decision to remove former cardinal and archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick from the priesthood is the Reverend James Martin editor at large America Media. So how significant is this move.

  • Rev. James Martin:

    It's extremely significant. It's a real stunning fall from power for one of the most powerful cardinals in the church is now no longer a priest he's no longer functioning as a priest. So it's a pretty severe punishment.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Now he had gone sort of been demoted and you know he lost his cardinal ship back in June and there was another step in July. So what what is the real practical impact on his life now.

  • Rev. James Martin:

    He can no longer celebrate Mass he can no longer celebrate the sacraments he can no longer present himself as a priest he can't wear a collar it's it's like being disbarred for a lawyer or using losing your medical license as a doctor.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And also the rank at which this is happening now we are walking into next week a meeting about this very topic. What is the signal that the pope is trying to send?

  • Rev. James Martin:

    It's a very strong signal that no one is above the law in the Catholic Church even if you're one of the most powerful cardinals. You're still going to have punishments levied against you. So I think it's it's good that they did this before that meeting. It's a sign from the pope of how seriously he takes this.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And what are the kind of ripple effects now for as the Organization of the church we're technically speaking if a cardinal can be brought to justice by the papacy, what does that say to all of the other dioceses all over the world saying you know this is not just a matter just for priests and just for bishops here?

  • Rev. James Martin:

    Well just that, no one is above the law. No one is above. Canon law. No one is above civil law and that if you do crimes or sins like this you'll be punished. And it's a it's a move towards greater transparency. And I think also how quickly it happened after the revelations came out I think it is important to the Vatican this is very fast.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In the arc of the last 15, 20 years what has this abuse scandal in all of its different chapters meant to the church and the lay public?

  • Rev. James Martin:

    Well it's been profoundly demoralizing for people certainly the most affected are the victims victims survivors and their families. And that anyone who knows them. But even for people who haven't been touched personally it's very demoralizing. Now in 2002 they put in certain restrictions such that anyone is credibly accused is removed. So that's changed the culture. But we still have a long way to go.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Even now, you know even now you look online and you see hundreds of priests hundreds of victims rolling out in church after church in dioceses and all over the country. It's still happening. Is that in a way good that it's at least getting out there ?

  • Rev. James Martin:

    It is. I mean a lot of these are going back 50 and in the Brooklyn Diocese 100 and 150 years. So it's a it's an accounting you know for our sins basically. It's important to move ahead with confession. If we look at the Catholic model confession you confess your sins you do penance and then you're forgiven. But before anything can happen you have to fully confess your sins and that's part of what's happening here.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What's this like for you? I mean you're forever Reverend this is your church. This is got to be difficult for you to keep carrying your faith while. Your institution that you've pledged your life to is coming to terms with this.

  • Rev. James Martin:

    You will always want to say that it's harder for victims and survivors than anyone else.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Certainly.

  • Rev. James Martin:

    But you know my faith in God hasn't changed. It's it's my sort of disappointment and anger. You know certain people in the church at abusers certainly some of whom I know people who covered this up. But I think it's also important to say that this happens in all sorts of institutions you know families schools places like that. But in the church what we need to do is really address that and be sort of forthright about it and be as transparent as possible so frankly I am really in favor of the release of these lists that have been happening that's pretty controversial because it's it's necessary for transparency it's necessary for us to understand how these things happen and enable us to move ahead and reconcile.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Well what are you looking for this week? What helps the church survive this?

  • Rev. James Martin:

    This desire to confront it without any sort of fear. You know that you know we have of the truth the truth sets us free. I mean that that really should be kind of what we're focused on.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You think the Pope's doing enough?

  • Rev. James Martin:

    I think the pope could always do more. I think that this meeting in the end of this week is really helpful it's the heads of all the bishops conferences. There are still countries where bishops have said well it doesn't happen in our country it doesn't happen and are part of the world. And I think one of the reasons for this meeting is to teach in a sense those bishops the facts about sex abuse. So I think that's a really good step forward.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right Reverend James Martin thanks so much.

  • Rev. James Martin:

    My pleasure.

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