Don’t Sanitize McCarrick’s Legacy, by Stephen P. White

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*Image: Main entrance lunette mural by Edwin Blashfield, c. 1930] Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.] Below the mural hang two galeros that belonged to Cardinals Patrick O’Boyle and James Hickey.

By Stephen P. White, The Catholic Thing, Feb. 27, 2020

Stephen P. White is executive director of The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America and a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.


Stephen P. WhiteThere is a custom, still observed in some places, in which a cardinal’s ceremonial hat – the red galero – is hung from the rafters of his cathedral upon his death. There it dangles, on its ecclesiastical gibbet, until it finally succumbs to the corruption of time and falls. The ultimate disintegration of the galero is taken as a sign – in a pious bit of Catholic humor – that the old man’s soul has finally made its way out of purgatory.

Having been stripped of his rank as cardinal and dismissed from the clerical state, Theodore McCarrick’s galero will never dangle with the others in St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington. Indeed, more than that, a large plaque bearing McCarrick’s episcopal coat of arms has been removed from the cathedral wall, where it once held its place among those of his predecessors and successors.

A visitor to St. Matthew’s Cathedral today would find no trace, no reminder, that Theodore McCarrick was ever the Archbishop of Washington.

There are many reasons one might want McCarrick’s legacy scrubbed from the cathedral altogether. Surely, those who were betrayed by him – his victims, his friends, his priests, his flock – would not relish seeing his name and heraldry displayed publicly, especially, as in this case, in such close proximity to the tabernacle. ….

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