The late Pope John Paul II was aware that then-Archbishop Theodore McCarrick slept with young men, but he decided to promote him to archbishop of Washington anyway, according to an explosive report.
The Vatican released the findings Tuesday from the two-year investigation into misconduct by McCarrick, a former cardinal who was defrocked last year after an investigation into sexual abuse allegations.
In the 400-page report, the Vatican found that McCarrick was able to rise to high-ranking church positions as bishops, cardinals and popes all downplayed or dismissed reports that he slept with seminarians.
Before Pope John Paul II appointed McCarrick as archbishop of Washington, DC, in 2000, he tasked the Vatican ambassador to the US with investigating the allegations of sexual misconduct.
He was told that McCarrick bedded seminarians but the inquiry didn’t find “certainty” that he had engaged in sexual misconduct.
The report claimed that John Paul II ultimately believed McCarrick’s handwritten denial in which he said he had never had sexual relations with any person.
“This inaccurate information appears likely to have impacted the conclusions of John Paul II’s advisors and, consequently, of John Paul II himself,” the report said.
The report, however, largely absolves Pope Francis in the scandal — noting that it was Pope Benedict XVI who decided not to investigate or sanction him seriously.
“Pope Francis had heard only that there had been allegations and rumors related to immoral conduct with adults occurring prior to McCarrick’s appointment to Washington,” the report said.
“Believing that the allegations had already been reviewed and rejected by Pope John Paul II, and well aware that McCarrick was active during the papacy of Benedict XVI, Pope Francis did not see the need to alter the approach that had been adopted.”
But when the first allegation of sexual abuse of a minor surfaced in 2018, Francis’ response was “immediate” and he dismissed the former cardinal from the priesthood, according to the report.