Cardinal Theodore McCarrick – one of the most prominent members the American Catholic hierarchy – has resigned over allegations of sexual abuse.
According to this report, Pope Francis has accepted his resignation.
The 88-year-old retired Archbishop of Washington has been ordered to remain in a house “to be indicated” until the accusations against him are examined.
A statement released today (Saturday) by the Vatican’s press office, says:
Yesterday evening the Holy Father received the letter in which Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington (U.S.A.), presented his resignation as a member of the College of Cardinals.
The statement continued to say that the Pope:
Has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.
The Pope’s decision comes over a month after the Archdiocese of New York announced that allegations of sexual abuse against McCarrick had been deemed “credible and substantiated,” following an investigation by an archdiocesan review board.
The victim was a 16-year-old altar boy who accused McCarrick of abusing him at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1971 and 1972, while he was still a priest for the archdiocese of New York.
Following those revelations, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin ordered McCarrick to no longer exercise public ministry.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark then revealed that during his time as a bishop in New Jersey, there had been several accusations of sexual misconduct against McCarrick from three adults. While two of the cases ended in financial settlements that included non-disclosure agreements, Tobin said that the victims were then released from those terms and were free to speak out.
Since then, allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of several young men going back at least five decades have been revealed, including one who claims he was abused by McCarrick beginning at age eleven.
At the height of the US Church’s clerical abuse scandal in 2002, McCarrick became one of the leading voices calling for reform. He would serve as the architect of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” commonly known as the “Dallas Charter”, which established new safeguards for accountability and transparency in the Church’s protection of minors and was adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002.
Francis’s decision comes after weeks of calls for the pope to strip McCarrick of his membership in the College of Cardinals and is the first decision of its kind in the United States.
The man whose allegations sparked the scandal, according to this report, said that the cardinal’s abuse began in 1971 when McCarrick put his hands in the boy’s pants during preparations for a Christmas service. He was 16 at the time. Then in 1972, McCarrick allegedly cornered him in a bathroom and again tried to touch him.
McCarrick denied the allegations:
While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.
The closest parallel to the McCarrick case is that of the late Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien. In February 2013, he stepped down as Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh and personally renounced his right to participate in the 2013 conclave that elected Francis, after the publication of allegations that he had engaged in inappropriate and predatory sexual misconduct with young priests dating back to the 1980s.
Another comparison is that of Cardinal Hans Hermann Wilhelm Groër, who served as archbishop of Vienna from 1986 to 1995. Following allegations of child abuse, he resigned his post at the request of Pope John Paul II in 1995, and then three years later, in 1998, relinquished his privileges as a cardinal.
Following the Vatican’s announcement, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the USCCB, issued a statement thanking Francis for his actions.
I thank the Holy Father for his leadership in taking this important step. It reflects the priority the Holy Father places on the need for protection and care for all our people and the way failures in this area affect the life of the Church in the United States.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn