Former Cardinal, ousted for sex abuse, is now living in Kansas friary
Officials at a grade school in a rural Kansas town were stunned Friday to learn that a former Catholic cardinal — who stepped down in July over allegations that he sexually abused seminarians and minors — was now living next door.
Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington is residing at St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, Kan., within a block of Victoria Elementary School.
“I was never made aware of it until I found out through social media today,” said Kent Michel, superintendent of USD 432 and also principal of Victoria Elementary.
When asked if the school had notified parents, Michel said, “I’ll be getting with my board. I really don’t have a comment on it right now.”
Michel said the elementary school is on the north side of the Basilica of St. Fidelis, and the friary is on the south side of the church. The high school, he said, is about five blocks east of the grade school.
Bishop Gerald L. Vincke of the Diocese of Salina, who agreed to McCarrick’s new living arrangement, responded in an email to The Star on Friday afternoon: “Regarding the school, Archbishop McCarrick is not allowed to make any public appearances or visit the school or do any ministry. He is confined to the friary to do penance and prayer. The friary is in the small town in Victoria. The friary is enclosed.”
Vincke added: “I am not aware that the school was notified, but I need to double check with the friary.”
The news drew outrage from a survivors’ advocacy group.
“This is an irresponsible move,” said David Clohessy, former director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “It boggles the mind that church officials are this reckless. No cleric who’s been accused of abuse, certainly not one facing multiple allegations, should be anywhere around kids, especially not an elementary school.”
Clohessy said friary staff members aren’t trained to deal with alleged sexual abusers.
“For the safety of kids, he should be at a secure, independently run treatment center,” he said. “Catholic officials have a miserable track record of trying to oversee proven, admitted and credibly accused abusive colleagues.”
The Archdiocese of Washington confirmed McCarrick’s new residency in a statement issued Friday.
“In late July 2018, our Holy Father Pope Francis requested that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick withdraw from all public ministry and events,” the statement said. “To that end, Archbishop McCarrick now resides at St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, Kansas, in the Diocese of Salina, with the permission of the Provincial Superior of the Franciscan Capuchin Community responsible for the Friary, Fr. Christopher Popravak, O.F.M. Cap., and the Bishop of Salina, Most Reverend Gerald Vincke.”
The statement added that “out of consideration for the peace of the community at St. Fidelis Friary, respect for the privacy of this arrangement is requested.”
The friary is home to five priests and one religious brother, according to its website. It is located next to the Basilica of St. Fidelis in Victoria, more commonly known as “The Cathedral of the Plains.”
The church, which attracts thousands of visitors each year, is on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2008 was named one of the “8 Wonders of Kansas.”
McCarrick, 88, the former Archbishop of Washington, resigned from the College of Cardinals in July, making him the first U.S. cardinal to step down because of sexual abuse allegations. At that time, the Vatican ordered him to live out a “life of prayer and penance.”
Vincke of the Salina Diocese said in a statement Friday that he agreed to the arrangement “with the understanding that Archbishop McCarrick is excluded from any public appearances and ministry.”
“Our diocese is not incurring any cost in this arrangement,” Vincke said.
Vincke said he realized that “this decision will be offensive and hurtful to many people.”
“Archbishop McCarrick is, in many ways, at the forefront of the recent firestorm in the Church,” Vincke said. “Many of us are confused and angry by what Archbishop McCarrick is alleged to have done several decades ago. The Holy See stated on July 28 that Pope Francis ‘accepted his resignation from the cardinalate and has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.’”
Vincke apologized to victims of priest sexual abuse.
“My heart aches for you and your families,” he said. “I am unable to comprehend the extent of your suffering. Sadly, many times the victims did not receive an adequate response from the Church regarding the abuse they endured and the life-long pain and suffering that accompanies such evil. As a Church, we are extremely sorry and ask for forgiveness.
“Because of the courage and perseverance of the victims who came forward, they have become the source of much needed change in our Church and our culture. I pray that this may bring about greater purification and healing for our world.”