Vatican officials will meet next week to decide the fate of disgraced former U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick over allegations of sexual abuse, Vatican sources said on Friday.
Vatican sources told Reuters last month that McCarrick will almost certainly be dismissed from the priesthood, which would make him the highest profile Roman Catholic figure to be defrocked in modern times.
Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Vatican department that will rule on the case, met Pope Francis on Thursday, according to a public Vatican schedule.
McCarrick, who rose to be a power broker in the American Church as Archbishop of Washington, D.C. from 2001 to 2006, is living in seclusion in a remote friary in Kansas.
He has responded publicly to only one of the allegations, saying he has “absolutely no recollection” of an alleged case of sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy more than 50 years ago.
He has not responded publicly to separate allegations by several priests and ex-priests who have come forward alleging he used his authority to coerce them to sleep with him when they were adult seminarians studying for the priesthood.
McCarrick has already received one of the most severe punishments short of defrocking. When the pope accepted his resignation as cardinal last July, he also ordered him to refrain from public ministry and to live in seclusion, prayer and penitence.
Note: technically, there is no such thing as a Catholic clergyman being “defrocked.” What they mean is: he will be returned to the lay state. I wrote about this a few years back, quoting canon law:
The proper canonical term for such a punishment is “dismissal from the clerical state.” It is also referred to as“laicization” or “forced laicization”. These terms mean that a priest is forbidden from exercising his priesthood for the rest of his life.
1338 §2. Privation of the power of orders is not possible but only a prohibition against exercising it or some of its acts; likewise, privation of academic degrees is not possible.”
While forbidden to exercise his priesthood for the rest of life, it should be remembered that a priest is a priest for life. Such is found in Canon Law.
Can. 290 “Once validly received, sacred ordination never becomes invalid. A cleric, nevertheless, loses the clerical state:
1/ by a judicial sentence or administrative decree, which declares the invalidity of sacred ordination;
2/ by a judicial sentence or administrative decree, which declares the invalidity of sacred ordination;
3/ by rescript of the Apostolic See which grants it to deacons only for grave causes and to presbyters only for most grave causes.”