Watch CBS News

"Virtually everyone knew": Priest says he repeatedly complained about Cardinal McCarrick

Priest says he warned church about cardinal
Priest says he warned church about Cardinal McCarrick's alleged abuse 03:28

A New York City priest says he warned senior Roman Catholic officials about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was suspended last month over claims he sexually abused seminary students and an altar boy. Cardinal Sean O'Malley, of Boston, apologized Monday night for brushing aside the allegations against McCarrick. Father Boniface Ramsey told CBS News' Nikki Battiste he repeatedly complained about the now retired archbishop of Washington, D.C.

O'Malley's admission is all the more startling because he is perhaps the pope's most trusted adviser on stopping sex abuse. He says he had no idea someone had complained about McCarrick and that he never saw that letter. Father Ramsey says he first heard about McCarrick's disturbing behavior as early as 1986, when he was archbishop of Newark.

"I had the impression that virtually everyone knew about it," Ramsey said. "Archbishop McCarrick was inviting seminarians to his beach house. … There were five beds … and there were six people. Archbishop McCarrick arranged it in such a way that somebody would join him in his bed." 

Ramsey, now a priest in New York City, wrote a letter in June 2015 to Cardinal O'Malley, who had just been appointed by Pope Francis to lead a commission to protect children from sex abuse.

Ramsey wrote, "Some of these stories were not presented to me as mere rumors but were told to me by persons directly involved."

"The response that I got was from his secretary, which said that this really does not fall under our jurisdiction," Ramsey said. 

Survivors respond with skepticism to Vatican response to alleged abuse by Pa. priests 02:34

Last night, Cardinal O'Malley said that was a mistake. "In restrospect," he said, "I should have seen that letter precisely because it made assertions about the behavior of an archbishop in the church."

O'Malley told "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell in 2014 that the church took sex abuse complaints seriously.

"Certainly, the Holy Father is very, very aware of that and very committed to zero tolerance and responding in a proper way," O'Malley said.

On Monday, the pope once again apologized to survivors. "The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored," Pope Francis said. "But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it."

Father Ramsey told us he brought his concerns about McCarrick to the Vatican's attention in 2000, 15 years before he went to O'Malley. McCarrick responded to the allegations saying he maintains his innocence.

On Monday, embattled Cardinal Donald Wuerl – who was at the center of last week's explosive Pennsylvania grand jury report – met privately in Washington with priests on his archdiocese's advisory group. Wuerl was accused of shielding 32 predatory priests when he was bishop of Pittsburgh.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.