Image courtesy of Associated Press
By Margaret Adams
Ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, 91, was charged for the sexual assault of a teenage boy in Wellesley, Massachusetts on Wednesday, August 4, making him the highest-ranking Catholic official in the U.S. to face criminal charges in the clergy sexual abuse scandal. He was a former archbishop of Washington D.C. and former chancellor of The Catholic University of America.
“This is extraordinary,” said Marci Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and attorney with Child USA. “Prosecutors feel safe filing charges even against bishops. It shows us the movement for sex abuse cases is becoming mature.”
While many men have filed lawsuits against McCarrick, the statute of limitations had run out in states like New York and New Jersey. He can be charged within Wellesley, Massachusetts because he was not a Massachusetts resident, and the statute of limitations stopped running when he left the state.
“My client is showing an enormous amount of courage by being a complainant in the criminal process,” said Mitchell Garabedian, the survivor’s attorney and advocate for sexual abuse survivors. “This is the first cardinal in the United States ever charged criminally for a sexual offense against a minor.”
The survivor told the investigators that the sexual abuse began as a boy, as McCarrick was a friend of the family. The ex-cardinal often went on family vacations with them, and McCarrick abused the boy in New York, New Jersey, California, and Massachusetts, according to the report filed by Wellesley detective Christopher Connelly.
The incident regarding the McCarrick charge occurred on June 8, 1974, at the survivor’s brother’s wedding reception at Wellesley College when he was 16. The man said that he knew exactly what was about to happen but “didn’t want to make a scene at his brother’s wedding and disturb everything because he had more respect for his mother, father and brother than himself at the time,” according to the police report.
The Vatican removed McCarrick from public ministry in 2018 due to credible allegations of sexual assault of an altar boy in New York in the 1970s.
“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,” said McCarrick in a statement at the time.
In 2019, Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick as a result of an investigation led by the Vatican that showed he had assaulted multiple minors and adults. The Vatican released a report last November, proving that they received many reports of sexual misconduct decades before McCarrick rose to the degree of influence and power he claimed. The report also shows that Saint Pope John Paul II appointed McCarrick cardinal after his sexual misconduct with multiple seminarians was confirmed.
“Oftentimes as they age predators get more dangerous, not less, because they are slow-moving, stoop-shouldered with thick glasses and seem just like your favorite grandpa or uncle,” said David Clohessy, the Missouri leader for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “In fact, they are more shrewd and cunning and manipulative than ever having wrapped up decades of experience in picking out the kid who is the least apt to tell or be believed from a family that is the most unable to trust law enforcement.”
McCarrick was also charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14 in a criminal complaint filed by Wellesley police in Dedham District Court.
More than 40 U.S. bishops have been publicly accused of child sexual abuse, but McCarrick is only the second one to face criminal charges, according to BishopAccountability. Thomas L. Dupre, the late ex-bishop of the Springfield archdiocese, was indicted on two counts of child rape; prosecutors ended up dropping the charges after they concluded the statute of limitations had run out.