Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick Makes First Court Appearance, Pleads ‘Not Guilty’

Sept. 3 marks the first time the disgraced ex-prelate has stepped foot in criminal court since accusations of long-standing sexual misconduct first came to light three years ago.

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick arrives at the Dedham courthouse for his first appearance for sexual assault charges on September 3, 2021 in Dedham, Massachusetts.
Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick arrives at the Dedham courthouse for his first appearance for sexual assault charges on September 3, 2021 in Dedham, Massachusetts. (photo: Scott Eisen / Getty)

BOSTON — “Not guilty” were the words of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick to a Massachusetts judge on Friday morning, answering to charges of sexually assaulting a local teenage boy in the 1970s.

McCarrick has been charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14. Each of the three criminal charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. 

Once a high-ranking and influential U.S. prelate with an impressive international resume, McCarrick resigned from the college of cardinals in July 2018 following a past allegation of sex abuse against a teenager that the New York archdiocese deemed credible. In February 2019, Pope Francis laicized McCarrick after a canonical investigation found him 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 message of morality being sent in any court action by a courageous clergy sexual abuse victim or survivor should not be lost on the Catholic Church,” said Mitchell Garabedian, attorney for the alleged victim of McCarrick, in a statement on Friday.

“Today, history is being made.  History that will not be forgotten.”

McCarrick’s criminal charges stem from a series of sexual assaults alleged to have taken place on June 8, 1974 at Wellesley College. According to court documents, McCarrick assaulted the alleged victim at the wedding reception of his brother. The alleged victim was 16 at the time.

It is unknown where McCarrick will be staying until his next day in court. The original criminal complaint listed McCarrick's address as a location in Dittmer, Missouri, which is the site of the Vianney Renewal Center. 

The center is a treatment facility run by the Servants of the Paraclete, which, according to its website, provides “a safe and supportive environment for the rehabilitation and reconciliation of priests and religious brothers.” The Servants of the Paraclete have long operated centers for the treatment of priests and religious.

Sept. 3 marks the first time the disgraced ex-prelate has stepped foot in criminal court since accusations of long-standing sexual misconduct first came to light three years ago.

In June 2018, McCarrick was removed from ministry following an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in 1974. He resigned from the College of Cardinals on July 28, 2018, becoming the first-ever cardinal to resign due to accusations of sexual abuse. Allegations of serial sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests soon followed, and it was revealed that several dioceses had paid settlements to men who were abused by McCarrick. 

Pope Francis sentenced McCarrick to a life of prayer and penance in 2018, pending the outcome of a canonical process. The canonical process concluded on Feb. 16, 2019, with McCarrick being found 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.” 

He was subsequently dismissed from the clerical state.

McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958 and was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York in 1977. He was named as the first bishop of the newly-created Diocese of Metuchen in 1981. 

In 1986, McCarrick was appointed archbishop of Newark, where he stayed for the next 15 years. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals on February 21, 2001, just under two months after he was installed as the archbishop of Washington. McCarrick retired from active ministry in 2006, at the age of 75. 

Nicolas Poussin, “Sts. Peter and John Healing the Lame Man,” 1655 — “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” ... He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.” [Acts 3:6, 8].

No Reason for Being Sad

“For man was made an intelligent and free member of society by God who created him, but even more important, he is called as a son to commune with God and share in his happiness.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 21)