Theodore McCarrick Dismissed From the Clerical State

Vatican rejects an appeal from the former cardinal archbishop of Washington DC after he was found guilty of ‘solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession,’ sexual abuse of minors and adults, and abuse of power.

Ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
Ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (photo: Getty Images)

As had been widely expected, the Vatican today announced it had removed Theodore Edgar McCarrick from the clerical state.

In a short statement, the Vatican said at the end of a penal process, the Congresso — a weekly meeting of superiors and officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — issued a decree finding McCarrick guilty of committing “delicts” while a cleric.

It described these as “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

The CDF issued the decree on Jan. 11, but the archbishop emeritus of Washington D.C. appealed against the decision. 

The Vatican said CDF officials meeting on Feb. 13 considered McCarrick’s recourse against the verdict but rejected it and notified McCarrick on Feb. 15. 

The statement added that Pope Francis has recognized the “definitive nature” of the decision, rendering it a res iudicata, meaning McCarrick has “no further recourse.”

The full statement:

On 11 January 2019, the Congresso of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the conclusion of a penal process, issued a decree finding Theodore Edgar McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., guilty of the following delicts while a cleric: solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power. The Congresso imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state. On 13 February 2019, the Ordinary Session (Feria IV) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith considered the recourse he presented against this decision. Having examined the arguments in the recourse, the Ordinary Session confirmed the decree of the Congresso. This decision was notified to Theodore McCarrick on 15 February 2019. The Holy Father has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law, rendering it a res iudicata (i.e., admitting of no further recourse).

Theodore McCarrick, 88, was consecrated bishop in 1977, becoming an auxiliary in the archdiocese of New York. He then rose through the episcopal ranks, becoming Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, in 1981, Archbishop of Newark in 1986, and Archbishop of Washington D.C. in 2000. Pope St. John Paul II elevated him to cardinal in 2001. 

He became the first U.S. cardinal in history to be removed from the College of Cardinals last July after being “credibly accused” of sexually abusing a teenager nearly 50 years ago, as well as additional allegations of sexual abuse and harassment over a number of decades.

Other victims include three adults who were young priests or seminarians when McCarrick allegedly abused them. A Virginia man, now in his 60s, alleged that from the age of 11 he was sexually abused and assaulted serially by McCarrick. The man said the abuse continued for almost two decades.

At the time of the accusations, McCarrick maintained he had “absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse and believe in my innocence.”

News of the today’s verdict comes ahead of the Vatican’s Feb. 21-24 summit on clerical sex abuse attended by the heads of bishops’ conferences from all over the world. 

The meeting is being held due to public anger over the McCarrick case, along with a raft of other abuse scandals that have come to light in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Australia. 

At the center of the McCarrick scandal are unanswered questions over why so many Church leaders remained silent despite widely rumoured abuse allegations against him of a homosexual nature, and who might have protected McCarrick during his long career. 

Last summer, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former apostolic nuncio to Washington, accused the Pope and senior Vatican officials of knowing about McCarrick’s alleged misconduct. 

Although Benedict XVI had tried to curtail McCarrick’s public ministry after he retired as Archbishop of Washington D.C. in 2006, Archbishop Viganò claimed that Francis had rehabilitated him.

The Holy Father has not responded to the accusations, and the Vatican has yet to release the findings of a promised investigation into its own archives on McCarrick.

In an open letter released last month, Archbishop Viganò called on McCarrick to repent publicly in order to “bring a significant measure of healing to a gravely wounded and suffering Church.”

Canonists say the punishment meted out to McCarrick technically does not mean he is no longer a priest or bishop, because priestly and episcopal ordination cannot be undone, but McCarrick can no longer perform priestly duties.

McCarrick is the most senior Church official in modern times to be removed from the clerical state — a penalty considered more serious than excommunication which is temporary and only lasts for as long as a person persists in sin.

Such a penalty is very rare in the Church but has occurred more frequently in recent times. Recent cases have been Emmanuel Milingo of Zambia in 2009, Raymond Lahey of Canada in 2012, and Józef Wesołowski, a Polish archbishop accused of sexual abuse of minors in 2014. He died in 2015 before a trial could be held.

McCarrick is not expected to face criminal prosecution because the allegations exceed the statutes of limitations in the U.S. jurisdictions where they are said to have taken place.


Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the present of the U.S. Conference of Catholic BIshops, issued the following statement Saturday:

“The Holy See’s announcement regarding Theodore McCarrick is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated. No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church. For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgement will be one small step, among many, toward healing. For us bishops, it strengthens our resolve to hold ourselves accountable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to Pope Francis for the determined way he has led the Church’s response.

If you have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of someone within the Catholic Church, I urge you to contact local law enforcement and your local diocese or eparchy. Victims Assistance Coordinators are available to help. We are committed to healing and reconciliation.”

One of McCarrick’s victims, James Grein, has also issued a statement, posted on his lawyer's website. In his testimony given in December, Grein accused McCarrick of exposing himself to Grein when he was 11 and then sexually molested him for years thereafter. Grein also gave details about repeated incidents of groping during confession.

Statement of James Grein

For years I have suffered, as many others have, at the hands of Theodore McCarrick.  It is with profound sadness that I have had to participate in the canonical trial of my abuser. Nothing can give me back my childhood and I have not taken any pleasure in testifying or discussing what happened to me. There are no winners here. With that said, Today I am happy that the Pope believed me. I am hopeful now I can pass through my anger for the last time. I hope that Cardinal McCarrick will no longer be able to use the power of Jesus’ Church to manipulate families and sexually abuse children. 

This great historical and holy situation is giving rise to all Catholics and victims of abuse across the world.  It’s is time for us to cleanse the church. Our Lady’s work is in process.

McCarrick has haunted the Church for the last 50 years.  A Church which has been cut off from Jesus. Run by men who have chosen to worship money, power, greed.  The exact opposite of God’s Holy Teaching. 

This has to change. It’s Jesus’ Church – I want to return. 

I must thank my family for without their belief and guidance I would be somewhere else.  I must thank my lawyer Patrick Noaker for helping me through the legal world. I must thank the important journalists who have listened to me and believed me.

We must continue to pressure state AG’s and senators to open the statutes of limitations. It’s these SOLs that has kept all of the abuse hidden from us.  Hundreds of priests, bishops and cardinals are hiding behind man made law. It is Time that we opened the books and expose the pure evil of these men. 

Again, it is Jesus’ Church – I want to return.  

Stand Up For Jesus and walk with me. 

James Grein
Jesus is my savior

The University of Notre Dame today rescinded an honorary degree given to McCarrick in 2008. 

Catholic News Agency reports on other reactions, from the archdiocese of Washington D.C., and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark. 

Cardinal Tobin, who reportedly owes his swift rise and appointment to McCarrick's former see of Newark to McCarrick’s influence with Francis, said in a statement that McCarrick and other clerical abusers had “violated a sacred trust” and “caused incalculable harm” to the lives of victims - young and old. He also renewed his “heartfelt apologies” for the abuse, and urged other victims “to come forward, no matter how much time has passed.”

According to the Associated Press, St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, Kansas, has said McCarrick will continue to live at the local friary “until a decision of permanent residence is finalized.” The ex-cardinal has been living there since September. 

In a statement Saturday, Bishop Gerald L. Vincke of the Salina, Kansas, diocese said he hopes the Vatican’s decision will “help bring healing to all affected by sexual abuse and those hurt by this scandal,” AP reported. 

The is a developing story that is being updated.