October 17, 2019
The following essay was written by my client, “Nathan Doe.” Nathan was part of a group of courageous and resilient men who felt compelled to come forward to Law Enforcement and the Catholic Church last year to disclose their own incidents of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
The words and opinions of Nathan are entirely his own and - whether you agree or disagree with all of his conclusions - they are unquestionably from the bottom of his heart. I urge you to forward this timely and thought-provoking essay to anyone who may have been impacted by the horror of clerical sexual abuse and is looking for a way to find some measure of peace and healing.
Kevin T. Mulhearn, Esq.
Orangeburg, New York
In early January 2019, news reports surfaced in various media outlets that the Vatican was investigating a third accusation of sexual abuse of a minor by the former Catholic priest Theodore McCarrick. Those news reports were true. The “third” accuser they were referring to in those news articles was me.
If I told you my real name, it would cause more pain for a lot of innocent people. I can’t do that. There has already been too much pain and suffering. For the purpose of this essay, you can call me Nathan.
Over the past 18 months I never thought about speaking out on the subject of McCarrick. That all changed when I read McCarrick’s recent interview with Slate magazine where he attempted to discredit the victims of his sexual abuse while creating further division and confusion within our Church. This recent McCarrick interview convinced me that now is the time to set the record straight for the Faithful.
Before I begin, I think it is important that I make two points:
First, I don’t have an axe to grind with anyone other than Theodore McCarrick. For me, this is not an attack on our Church. This is not about Conservative vs Liberal. This is not about Straight vs Gay. This is not about Benedict vs. Francis. In my view, those arguments are a distraction. For me, this is about our humanity. This is about the criminal, sexual abuse of minors. This is about Matthew 18:6.
Second, while my intention is to offer some clarity and insights for the Faithful, I must also be careful not to jeopardize any of the ongoing criminal, civil, or ecclesiastical investigations into the personal life and clerical career of McCarrick. I am also deeply committed to securing and protecting the privacy rights of McCarrick’s many victims. It is within this tight space that I will do my best to help the Faithful understand what really happened with McCarrick and what I personally think it means for our Church.
The Summer of 2018
In the past year it has been widely reported that McCarrick’s conduct with seminarians was something of an open secret to many over the years. I don’t know anything about the seminarians and I have no idea if that is even true. I am not even sure I know what “open secret” means.
What I do know is that no one ever talked about McCarrick and the boys. I am referring to McCarrick’s targets and victims before he was given power and control over all of those seminaries. I am referring to the first act in McCarrick’s sexual abuse career that no one ever talked about before the Summer of 2018. I am referring to young Catholic boys - almost always between the ages of 12 and 16.
By the time then-Cardinal McCarrick stepped in front of the cameras and microphones in 2002 as the face of the U.S. Catholic Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis, he had already completed a personal campaign of predatory sexual abuse of minors and young adult males that stretched back across four decades. While the national media waxed poetic about this charming and charismatic Cardinal with a twinkle in his eye, they had no idea that McCarrick was using them to send a powerful message to his countless victims that he was untouchable and in complete control. Can you really blame any of us for believing him?
Unfortunately, it would be another 16 years - and an unspeakable amount of spiritual carnage later - before McCarrick was finally stopped. In fact, the only thing that stopped him was the courage of two faithful Catholic men. Those two men did what no one else could do in 60 years and they did it over a 30-day period in the summer of 2018.
The Archdiocese of New York’s revelation in June 2018 about the altar boy from St. Patrick’s was the sharp jab to the face that stunned. Someone had finally done it. Someone finally had the stones to tell the truth about McCarrick. Not only that, it was clear that the Church and civil authorities found him credible and were taking his claim seriously.
The New York Times article in July 2018 that anonymously detailed James Grein’s story of abuse at the hands of McCarrick was the knock-out punch. I can say that from personal experience. You see, I was one of many faithful Catholic men from around the country that read that article and knew that Grein was telling the truth.
We knew because we were all victims of McCarrick’s abuse too. We were minors at the time also. To varying degrees, Grein’s story was our story. I don’t know James Grein, have never spoken to him, and I never even knew he existed until that moment, but there were too many details in that interview that only a person in our exclusive club would know.
There was something else that I had in common with all these faithful Catholic men who were sitting there reading Grein’s story. We all knew we had a choice to make. Our loyalty to Jesus Christ was either real or it was fake. There was no middle ground. As individuals, we had to decide if we were going to stand up for the truth or if we were going to take the coward’s way out and pretend we didn’t know.
That media leak back in early January 2019 about the “third accuser” against McCarrick, while true, was only partially accurate. That’s how we knew the leak didn’t come from someone close to the investigation. There was only one name on the victim file - and that was by design. The truth is that all of those other faithful Catholic men who were also victims of McCarrick’s sexual abuse came forward with me.
We came forward to defend the truth. We came forward to defend McCarrick’s victims. We came forward to defend the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ. For the purpose of this essay, you can call us The Nathans.
The Facts in Evidence
Throughout the last few months of 2018, The Nathans cooperated fully with multiple law enforcement agencies in multiple jurisdictions to fully disclose our own individual incidents of sexual abuse at the hands of McCarrick and to share everything we knew about McCarrick dating back to 1970.
Collectively, we were able to provide law enforcement with names, dates, times, locations, who was present, supporting evidence, and related documentation covering hundreds of Church-related or fundraising-related overnight trips between the years 1970 and 1990 that, as fate would have it, all resulted in McCarrick sharing a bed with a young Catholic boy.
We gave them everything we had and we told them everything we knew. The law enforcement officials we encountered along the way were a blessing. They could not have handled us or treated us better.
On December 21, 2018, Pope Francis stood before the Curia in the Clementine Hall inside the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace and said the following words:
“Let us all remember that only David’s encounter with the prophet Nathan made him understand the seriousness of his sin. Today we need new Nathans to help so many Davids rouse themselves from a hypocritical and perverse life. Please, let us help Holy Mother Church in her difficult task of recognizing real from false cases, accusations from slander, grievances from insinuations, gossip from defamation. This is no easy task, since the guilty are capable of skillfully covering their tracks, to the point where many wives, mothers and sisters are unable to detect them in those closest to them: husbands, godfathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, neighbours, teachers and the like. The victims too, carefully selected by their predators, often prefer silence and live in fear of shame and the terror of rejection.”
On that very same day, halfway across the world in the Archdiocese of New York, The Nathans began their testimony before the Holy See as part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s Administrative Penal Process in the matter of Theodore McCarrick. We gave them everything we had and we told them everything we knew. 21 days later, McCarrick was laicized pending appeal.
All of the Church officials, both religious and laity, that we encountered along the way were also a blessing. They could not have handled us or treated us better either. There are strong, faithful, Catholic men and women everywhere who are fighting this metastatic evil of sexual abuse with everything they have. Don’t lose sight of that.
Finally, if you are interested in a real-time assessment of the state of McCarrick’s soul - or perhaps want some insight into his uniquely insidious ability to cause confusion among the Faithful for his own benefit – go back and read that Slate interview again and consider this: McCarrick knows everything I just told you. His canon lawyers were there for all of the testimony.
In recent months it has been extremely distressing for me to witness the pain, confusion, disgust, and anguish of the Faithful amidst a torrent of rampant, often-confusing, finger-pointing ignited by various interest groups with varying agendas. In some ways, I feel responsible.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know any of the victims of McCarrick who have been publicly identified thus far. I don’t know anything about the seminarians. I have no clue about anything that goes on in Rome. I was, however, a witness in the US based investigations of McCarrick’s sexual abuse of minors and I have some thoughts to offer based on my experience over the past year.
It is my hope that these personal thoughts might help the Faithful process these events. I am also hopeful that perhaps it might help a few folks get started down a path that leads towards spiritual reconciliation.
Why is the Vatican’s report on McCarrick taking so long?
I have no insights at all into who is writing that report and how all of that will work. What I can tell you is that if they had completed and issued their report before today, I would be sitting here telling you that they closed the book too soon. Don’t underestimate the sheer volume of information that began coming in last year, the number of different channels that information came in through, and all of the various investigative processes and law enforcement agencies that have been involved with the examination of the information.
If there is one thing I am sure that Church and civilian authorities can all agree on, it is that McCarrick was a walking jurisdictional nightmare who has left a wake of physical, emotional, and spiritual carnage that stretches back, at this point, more than 50 years. I am personally inclined to grant all of the investigators all the time they need to do whatever work is necessary to get this done right once and for all.
How could people around McCarrick not have known?
In my view, this is a lazy question. Also, I often see this question get weaponized by special interest groups, usually with cunning precision. If you were to ask any one of the The Nathans that question, each of us would tell you that unless that person in close proximity to McCarrick was (A) a male, (B) of the right age, (C) during the right period of time, it is extremely unlikely they were aware of what was truly going on. We wouldn’t say that because we are wishfully assuming the best in people or giving them the benefit of the doubt. We would say that because we saw how McCarrick groomed, stalked, and eventually preyed on us. We know better than anyone how careful he was about covering his tracks.
I have no problem at all accepting the idea that there were people close to McCarrick who never saw this coming. If you think you are freaking out, you should see my family. Think about how sick this is: They feel guilty and complicit for not knowing that this happened under their noses all those years ago. I feel guilty and complicit for never having the courage to tell them what McCarrick did to me and for going along with his charade all these years. Meanwhile, the only person who should be feeling guilty about any of this is now giving magazine interviews from inside a friary and telling the whole world that he doesn’t feel guilty about anything. God bless those Capuchin monks. They are better men than me.
How can we trust the Church or Priests again?
This is obviously a personal decision that everyone needs to make for themselves. All I can do is tell you how I look at this based on my own life experiences.
First, I’ve known hundreds of priests in my life. Dozens of them were critical to my Catholic formation both as a child and as a young man. The things that they taught me about life and faith are the bedrock of many of the principles I live by today. Almost all of them were selfless men who committed their lives to Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the Good News through the Gospel.
Second, I have read every name on every list from every diocese and religious order across the country that has published the names of priest-abusers. There were only two names that I knew among all of the lists, and one of them was McCarrick’s. I had no experience with the other named abuser. I could not find one other priest on any of those lists among the hundreds of priests I have known in my life. For me personally, that is a statistically significant fact.
Finally, it is worth noting that the first person I ever talked to in 2018 after I read Grein’s interview was a Brooklyn priest. It was his spiritual guidance and pastoral concern that eventually served as the catalyst for The Nathans to come forward to both law enforcement and Church authorities.
At the end of the day, I think the true story of Theodore McCarrick is a story about a man who was blessed by God with extraordinary natural gifts. When he used those gifts for the greater glory of God, he did amazing and impactful things that helped a lot of people and, in some cases, saved a lot of lives. When he used those gifts to satisfy his avarice, greed, and lust, he caused an unconscionable amount of physical, emotional, and spiritual harm.
The biggest faith lesson for me in all of this is a simple one. In each and every one of us, there is an equal capacity for good and evil. The greater your gifts from God, the more capacity you have to do good or evil depending on the choices you make. It is incumbent upon all followers of Jesus to constantly remind ourselves of this. We must strive to always hold ourselves, as well as our brothers and sisters, accountable.