VATICAN CITY (AP) — At first glance, the handwritten postcards and letters look innocuous, even warm, sometimes signed off by “Uncle T.” or “Your uncle, Father Ted.”

But taken in context, the correspondence penned by disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to the young men he is accused of sexually abusing or harassing is a window into the way a predator grooms his prey, according to two abuse prevention experts who reviewed it for The Associated Press.

Full of flattery, familiarity and boasts about his own power, the letters provide visceral evidence of how a globe-trotting bishop made young, vulnerable men feel special — and then allegedly took advantage of them.

The AP is exclusively publishing correspondence McCarrick wrote to three men ahead of the promised release of the Vatican’s own report into who knew what and when about his efforts to bed would-be priests. Access to an archbishop for young men seeking to become priests “is a key piece of the grooming process here,” said one of the experts, Monica Applewhite.

Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick, 89, in February after a church investigation determined he sexually abused minors as well as adult seminarians. The case has created a credibility crisis for the Catholic hierarchy , since McCarrick’s misconduct was reported to some U.S. and Vatican higher-ups, but he nevertheless remained an influential cardinal until his downfall last year.

McCarrick has declined to comment on his case, except to say in an initial statement last year that he was innocent but accepted the Holy See’s decision to remove him from ministry. McCarrick lawyer J. Michael Ritty declined to comment on the correspondence.

The testimony of James Grein, 61, the first child McCarrick baptized, was key to the Vatican case. The son of close family friends, Grein told church investigators that McCarrick began sexually abusing him when he was 11, including during confession and at family weddings and holiday celebrations.

In an interview with AP, Grein said McCarrick’s exalted place in the family over three generations created pressure on him to visit with McCarrick during weekends away from boarding school and visits when he would be molested.

“If I didn’t go to see Theodore I was always going to be asked by my brothers and sisters or my dad, ‘Why didn’t you go see him?’”

That family dynamic is present in the postcards McCarrick sent to Grein — notes without postmarks that were included in letters McCarrick sent to his father.

“Time is getting close for your visit back east,” McCarrick wrote to Grein while he was at boarding school at the Woodside Priory School in California in the 1970s. “I’ll be calling home one of these days to check on arrangements.” He signed the note “Love to all, Your uncle, Fr. Ted.”

Applewhite said the text betrays McCarrick’s clear expectations that Grein would come visit, as well as the involvement of his family in arranging the rendezvous. A postcard visible to the family, she added, is the most open form of communication, and was likely meant to show Grein that what McCarrick was doing wasn’t wrong.

“To send it in a postcard says ‘I have nothing to hide,’” said Applewhite, who has counseled U.S. dioceses and religious orders about child protection programs and training.

In 1981, McCarrick was named the first bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey. Last year, his seminarian victims began speaking out about how their former bishop would refer to them as his “nephews” and insist that they call him “Uncle Ted” — creating an informal family relationship that would make it very difficult for any of them to ever report misconduct, Applewhite said.

Former seminarians recounted how McCarrick would invite groups of young men for weekends fishing or at his beach house, always inviting one extra to force someone to share his bed. McCarrick later denied having ever had sexual relations with anyone but acknowledged an “unfortunate lack of judgment” in sharing a bed with the men, according to a 2008 email to the Vatican.

In correspondence to one Metuchen seminarian after he was named archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, McCarrick detailed his jet-setting ministry in the summer of 1987, when he travelled to Russia and Poland at the height of St. John Paul II’s efforts to bring down communism in Eastern Europe. Later that year, he told the young man how he accompanied John Paul on his U.S. pilgrimage.

“It’s reminding him of his position of power, that he has all this access to special privileges,” said Elizabeth Jeglic, professor of psychology and expert in sexual violence prevention at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She said the message to the seminarian was: “‘You stay with me, you get access to that.’”

The seminarian later wrote to another bishop that he had witnessed McCarrick and other would-be priests engaging in sexual activity during a fishing trip and that McCarrick had groped him during an overnight stay at McCarrick’s Manhattan apartment later that summer. He said he vomited in the bathroom that Friday night because of the trauma.

In a letter soon after , McCarrick wrote: “I just want to say thanks for coming on Friday evening. I really enjoyed our visit.”

In eight letters to the seminarian, McCarrick repeatedly urged the young man to call him collect at his offices in Newark, providing his direct line and the dates of his comings and goings. He also urged him repeatedly to come visit — a frequency of demanding contact that Jeglic said constituted harassment and an attempt to “keep him in the web.”

“We have an almost full house, and by tomorrow the couches and maybe the floor will be taken — but we would have made room even for a big guy like you,” McCarrick wrote him.

In a sign of possible desperation, he added: “P.S. Do you even get my letters?”

McCarrick also referred to an incident where the two met a Mafia-associated businessman who was gunned down shortly after in a mob hit.

“Thank God we didn’t go to dinner on Saturday night!” McCarrick wrote. “We’d have been in the middle of a gangland rub-out.”

In a subsequent letter Aug. 28, 1987, written on Admirals Club letterhead during a flight in Poland, McCarrick referred again to the murder in his trademark small script: “You stick with your uncle and you’ll really meet exciting people.”

Jeglic said the reference to the mob hit was a shared, illicit experience that “bonds you in secrecy.”

Another seminarian, the Rev. Desmond Rossi, was studying for the priesthood at Immaculate Conception seminary in Newark, New Jersey when McCarrick was named archbishop. He said McCarrick had made it a point to greet Rossi’s father at Mass, and wrote to Rossi when the young man took a sabbatical in 1987.

In the letter, McCarrick wrote that he had just been with John Paul during his trip to Miami, and was praying for Rossi to come back.

“You’re still very much part of the family,” McCarrick wrote.

Rossi said he now sees McCarrick was grooming him with the letter, particularly his reference to John Paul and being part of “the family.”

“Here’s an archbishop of the church telling a 25-year-old kid who is interested in priesthood that he just left a meeting with the pope,” Rossi said. “This is a major deal!”

Rossi ultimately moved to another diocese in 1989, after a meeting where he said McCarrick rolled his chair “inappropriately close” and touched Rossi’s leg as he spoke.

“At that moment, pretty much in my mind I thought ‘I’m leaving this diocese,’ because it was that uncomfortable,” Rossi said.

As much as he considers himself a survivor, Rossi acknowledges that McCarrick was a gifted, charismatic pastor. Applewhite said abusers aren’t just monsters — as evidenced by McCarrick’s own correspondence looking out for his seminarians.

“If we’re only looking for demons, we’re not ever going to catch anyone,” she said.

The U.S. victims’ advocacy group SNAP said McCarrick’s correspondence provides “textbook examples of grooming behavior” that should serve as a wakeup call about the subtle ways predators build relationship with their victims and ingratiate themselves into families.

“We hope that the publication of these letters will lead to both healing for the survivors and new opportunities for parents and the public to become educated about grooming,” SNAP said in a statement after the AP report.


McCarrick got away with many decades of outlandship behaviour because he spread millions of dollars bribing people in Rome and the USA.

That means he appropriated millions and millions of dollars donated by ordinary and rich Catholics and organisations.

McCarrick proves that at the top of the RC institution power, sex and money matters a lot more than God or God’s people.

Even innocent children are fair game.

I started off life and priesthood totally ignorant of these realities.

I’m glad I’m not starting again.

I could not go the road I went again.

But I do not regret faith and priesthood.

And I’m sure God used Cahal B Daly to take me out of Babylon and give me the freedom of a son of God.

O felix culpa.


“Rossi ultimately moved to another diocese in 1989, after a meeting where he said McCarrick rolled his chair “inappropriately close” and touched Rossi’s leg as he spoke.”
Rossi says he was “a 25 year old kid”.
Now he is a “survivor”.


2.49: …..Your conclusion being???? Can you explain – please? Am I missing something? Abuse is abuse whatever age a person may be. The person who abuses his/her position against any one in their “care” irrespective of age, is an abuser. Unless of course consent is given, which I doubt…..No one gives another person consent to abuse deliberately or otherwise. Abuse is abuse when behaviour is perpetrated against your will and often the context of an abusing experience is manipulated carefully as in the cases with McCarrick.


It’s a funny old world, Bp Pat. In the end Daly did you a great favour; otherwise you may have ended up in Clogherhead or Loughinisland, or more likely c/o bishop’s house somewhere. Also, you could have easily been just another notch on KOB’s belt.


The church has become the house of Satan . The light is no longer in the church , but with those who leave it , and refuse to be part of the abuse . To stay is in reality to support the abuse . Evil rules the church now .


What comes across strongly in these excerpts from letters from McCarrick is the way in which he seems to have convinced himself that he was an affectionate, caring, loving uncle figure to these young men, and that he was concerned for them and looking after them. Such grand self-delusion. Whereas in truth everything he writes and does is an act of control, of coercion, of emotional blackmail, of grooming. And all of this would have been wrapped in some kind of spiritual cloak, where he, Father / Uncle Ted, had these mens’ best interests at heart !

McCarrick probably was, and is, bemused that this can be all so misunderstood ! He will go to his grave convinced that he has done nothing wrong. Which is why it is important that people do intervene and remove the likes of McCarrick from the equation. The problem was that at the same time as he was fooling himself about his involvement with these men, he was using his skills to fool all those around him, and his particular skill was the ability to raise money – again, using his powers of deceptive persuasion. McCarrick is one dangerous and sick individual, who was able to put his talents to such misuse and ill use.


The pic at the top if in poor taste and erroneous. In the first place, it was Francis, not any of his two predecessors who returned TMcC to the lay state and secondly, Viganò is not a cardinal. But a cheap shot is more important than the truth.


Pathetic comment!
The truth is lots of clerics and hierarchs knew Ted was up to no good for years but kept their mouths shut!!
What’s knew.


Fe. Pat, you sound very like Trump and hi relationship with the Clintons. Every chance you get you use again and again.


Hi Pat,

Goes to show that the old expression ‘The dollar is king’ was very appropriate in McCarrick’s life. He got away with his behaviour because his dollars filled the Vatican coffers and lined the pockets of many a bishop and cardinal.
A sordid, putrid and stinking lot!
And to think there are good, well meaning souls who put money in the basket every week to support this lot. And please, please nobody give me the old business of supporting the good local priest. If he was worth his salt he would do what many a lay person who has opened their eyes has done and got out.


….and any idea of what is happening to Pell and his appeal ? It’s taking a long time. Did I read something that said they are expecting the verdict in a couple of weeks ?

It will be interesting to see what the verdict is, and even if his conviction is quashed what the Church does with him. Surely, he won’t just be sprung free and returned to his Cardinal’s privileges ? There just seems to be too much smoke around for him to be squeaky clean ? There would seem to be a number of allegations that haven’t made it to court, but do make one wonder if Pell had a problem. The easiest thing for the Pope would be if his conviction is upheld and he does his prison time and then is then returned to the lay state. Anything else is going to be a bit messy.

I see he’s been saying things about the Amazon Synod from his prison cell, critiquing the Instrumentum Laboris. I would have thought that he’d have more important things to think about at present.


4:49 Australian authorities are investigating a letter circulated on social media to see if it was written by Cardinal Pell, which would be in violation of prison rules. It’s claimed, he wrote a pastoral letter to his supporters, but gave no instructions to post it on social media. A decision on his appeal is expected in the near future.


Uncle Ted hi. Fek Drink rabbits. Says a lot about the twilight country of clericalism. Also priest in good standing hi Does this mean the majority are operating at an angle hi


Good Evening hi fly.
Fek boys drink money. Money was thrown about like snuff at a wake by this laddie to compromise others.
It must have worked a treat for him to have got away with his carry on until he was 88 yrs.
His ilk are clericalist parasites, and apparently, as we are discovering, they are legion.
The twilight zone of corruptive clericalism is ruining the credibility of the Gospel.
They seem to operate in the twilight zone to favour themselves and their fraternity. Fek the rest.
Bye bye hi fly.


Pat, the Galway changes are out. There are actually no appointments, just nominations to the chapter, two retirements, a pastoral co-ordinator, an administrator becoming a PP. There’s no mention of the former Redemptorist. Apparently, he’s still under investigation by the HSE for feeling up a young lad in University Hospital Galway. The Galway diocese would never be trying to cover up would they???! Would it be a case of just appoint him to Moycullen, say nothing, don’t publish it and it will all go away. They must have managed to sweep any church related complaints about him under the carpet. The HSE and Pat Buckley hopefully won’t let it go!!!


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