Disgraced Ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick Criminally Charged with Sexual Assault of a Minor

In court documents, the man alleging the abuse claimed that McCarrick, being a family friend, began abusing him when he was a boy, the Associated Press reported.

Theodore McCarrick
Theodore McCarrick (photo: Copyright Mazur_catholicchurch.org.uk / Pixabay)

BOSTON — Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has reportedly been charged with sexual assault of a teenage boy, a crime alleged to have occurred in the 1970s. 

McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state by Pope Francis in 2019, after the Vatican conducted an expedited canonical investigation and found McCarrick guilty of “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 Associated Press reported on Thursday that, according to court documents obtained by the Boston Globe, McCarrick was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14. 

In court documents, the man alleging the abuse claimed that McCarrick, being a family friend, began abusing him when he was a boy, the AP reported.  The man said that McCarrick groped him in 1974 at his brother's wedding reception when he was 16 years old. The groping purportedly occurred while the two were walking around the campus of Wellesley College. 

The AP also said the report accuses McCarrick of leading the boy into a room and fondling him, then telling the boy to say a penance of Hail Marys and Our Fathers in order to gain God’s forgiveness of his sins. 

McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958 and became auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York in 1997. He became in 1981 Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, then Archbishop of Newark in 1986, and then in 2001 Archbishop of Washington, DC, where he retired in 2006.

He became a cardinal in 2001, but resigned from the College of Cardinals after it emerged in June 2018 that he had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting a minor. Allegations of serial sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests soon followed, and McCarrick was laicized in February 2019.

According to Jeffrey Anderson, a prominent attorney for sex abuse survivors, McCarrick resided in the rectory of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York at the time of the abuse in 1974.

As CNA previously reported, in 1971 McCarrick became secretary to New York’s Cardinal Terence Cooke and lived in the rectory attached to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He also grew close with several large Catholic families in the area in the years that followed. He called teenage children in these families “nieces” and “nephews” while accepting the nickname “Uncle Ted,” and traveled regularly with teenagers including on overnight trips.

“Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's history of prolific sex crimes has been ignored by the highest-ranking Catholic officials for decades,” said Anderson on Thursday. “For too long Catholic institutions have been self-policing while making pledges and promises without action – McCarrick should be behind bars for his crimes.”

McCarrick’s public disgrace in 2018 and dismissal from the clerical state a year later shocked Catholics in the United States and around the world, and triggered an international crisis of credibility for the Church’s hierarchy, leading to Pope Francis calling an unprecedented meeting of the world’s bishops in 2019 to address issues of sexual abuse and accountability in the Church.

The fallout of the 2018 allegations against McCarrick, and reports that Church leaders knew for years about possible instances of misconduct but failed to act, also contributed to Pope Francis’ promulgation of Vos estis lux mundi, a new provision in canon law allowing for the investigation and trial of bishops for the failure to act on allegations.