McCarrick removed from the priesthood after being found guilty of abuse

| Paul Haring | February 16, 2019 | 0 Comments

Pope Francis has confirmed the removal from the priesthood of Theodore E. McCarrick, the 88-year-old former cardinal and archbishop of Washington.

The Vatican announced the decision Feb. 16, saying he was 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.”

A panel of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty Jan. 11, the Vatican said. McCarrick appealed the decision, but the appeal was rejected Feb. 13 by the congregation itself. McCarrick was informed of the decision Feb. 15 and Pope Francis “recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law,” making a further appeal impossible.

By ordering McCarrick’s “dismissal from the clerical state,” the decision means that McCarrick loses all rights and duties associated with being a priest, cannot present himself as a priest and is forbidden to celebrate the sacraments, except to grant absolution for sins to a person in imminent danger of death.

The only church penalty that is more severe is excommunication, which would have banned him from receiving the sacraments. The other possible punishment was to sentence him to a “life of prayer and penance,” a penalty often imposed on elderly clerics; the penalty is similar to house arrest and usually includes banning the person from public ministry, limiting his interactions with others and restricting his ability to leave the place he is assigned to live.

McCarrick’s punishment is the toughest meted out to a cardinal by the Vatican in modern times.

McCarrick’s initial suspension from ministry and removal from the College of Cardinals in 2018 came after a man alleged that McCarrick began sexually abusing him in 1971 when he was a 16-year-old altar server in New York; the Archdiocese of New York found the allegation “credible and substantiated” and turned the case over to the Vatican.

At that point, in June, then-Cardinal McCarrick said he would no longer exercise any public ministry “in obedience” to the Vatican, although he maintained he was innocent.

In late July, the pope accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals and ordered him to maintain “a life of prayer and penance” until the accusation that he had sexually abused a minor could be examined by a Vatican court.

In the weeks that followed the initial announcement, another man came forward claiming he was abused as a child by McCarrick, and several former seminarians spoke out about being sexually harassed by the cardinal at a beach house he had in New Jersey.

Since September, McCarrick has been living in a Capuchin friary in rural Kansas.

The allegations against McCarrick, including what appeared to be years of sexual harassment of seminarians, also led to serious questions about who may have known about his activities and how he was able to rise to the level of cardinal.

At least two former seminarians reported the sexual misconduct of McCarrick to their local bishops as far back as the 1990s. The Archdiocese of Newark and the dioceses of Metuchen and Trenton made a settlement with one man in 2005, and the Diocese of Metuchen settled with the other man in 2007.

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Metuchen told Catholic News Service in August that both settlements were reported to the Vatican nuncio in Washington. The two archbishops who held the position of nuncio in 2004 and 2006 have since died.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who served as nuncio in Washington from 2011-2016, made headlines in mid-August when he called for Pope Francis to resign, claiming the pope had known of allegations against McCarrick and had lifted sanctions imposed on McCarrick by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI.

The former nuncio later clarified that Pope Benedict issued the sanctions “privately” perhaps “due to the fact that he (McCarrick) was already retired, maybe due to the fact that he (Pope Benedict) was thinking he was ready to obey.”

In an open letter to Archbishop Vigano released in October, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops since 2010, said that in 2011, “I told you verbally of the situation of the bishop emeritus (McCarrick) who was to observe certain conditions and restrictions because of rumors about his behavior in the past.”

Then-Cardinal McCarrick “was strongly exhorted not to travel and not to appear in public so as not to provoke further rumors,” Cardinal Ouellet said, but “it is false to present these measures taken in his regard as ‘sanctions’ decreed by Pope Benedict XVI and annulled by Pope Francis. After re-examining the archives, I certify that there are no such documents signed by either pope.”

Cardinal Ouellet’s letter was published a few days after the Vatican issued a statement saying that it would, “in due course, make known the conclusions of the matter regarding Archbishop McCarrick.”

In addition, Pope Francis ordered “a further thorough study of the entire documentation present in the archives of the dicasteries and offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.”

The Vatican statement said it is aware “that, from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances, it may emerge that choices were made that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues. However, as Pope Francis has said: ‘We will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead.’ Both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated, and a different treatment for bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact, represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.”

McCarrick had been ordained to the priesthood in 1958 for the Archdiocese of New York. James, the first child he baptized after ordination, claimed that from the time he was 11 years old and for some 20 years, McCarrick sexually abused him.

In 1977, McCarrick was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of New York and, in 1981, St. John Paul II named him the first bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey. Five years later, he became the archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and in November 2000 St. John Paul named him archbishop of Washington, D.C., and made him a cardinal early in 2001. McCarrick retired in 2006.

At least three other cardinals have been accused of sexual abuse or impropriety in the past 25 years. In the 1990s Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer was forced to step down as archbishop of Vienna and eventually to relinquish all public ministry after allegations of the sexual abuse and harassment of seminarians and priests; he died in 2003 without having undergone a canonical trial.

Pope Benedict XVI forced Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien to step down as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh in early 2013; after an investigation, Pope Francis withdrew his “rights and duties” as a cardinal, although he retained the title until his death in March 2018.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, facing charges of abusing minors, has been on leave from his post as head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy since mid-2017; he reportedly was found guilty of some charges in December, but the court has imposed an injunction on press coverage of the trial. Pope Francis told reporters he would not speak about the case until the court proceedings have run their course.

Timeline of key events in McCarrick’s priesthood, ministry

1958 June 15 — Father McCarrick ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New York by Cardinal Francis Spellman.

1958 — Father McCarrick performs his first baptism in Tenafly, New Jersey. The child, James, later would allege he was abused by Father McCarrick.

1969 — Msgr. McCarrick named assistant secretary of education for the Archdiocese of New York.

1969 — Msgr. McCarrick allegedly exposes himself to James, then an 11-year-old boy, in Northern New Jersey. As reported by The New York Times July 19, James alleged that an abusive relationship continued for nearly 20 years.

1971 — Msgr. McCarrick becomes personal secretary to Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York.

1971 — Msgr. McCarrick allegedly abuses a 16-year-old altar boy in the Archdiocese of New York prior to Christmas Mass. A year later he allegedly abuses the same altar boy, again before Christmas Mass. Both incidents were reported to the archdiocese sometime between March 1, 2017, and April 15, 2018.

1977 June 29 — Msgr. McCarrick ordained as an auxiliary bishop of New York by Cardinal Cooke.

1981 Jan. 31 — Bishop McCarrick installed as first bishop of newly created Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey.

1984 — Bishop McCarrick authorizes Diocese of Metuchen to purchase beach house in Sea Girt, New Jersey, according to The New York Times. He is alleged to have abused seminarians at the house.

1986 July 25 — Archbishop McCarrick installed as archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

1987 — Archbishop McCarrick allegedly abuses unnamed seminarian for the Diocese of Metuchen in New York City. The former priest received a settlement from the Archdiocese of Newark and Diocese of Metuchen in 2007, as reported by The New York Times July 16, 2018.

1994 — The unnamed Metuchen priest writes a letter to Archbishop McCarrick’s successor in Metuchen, Bishop Edward T. Hughes, stating that abuse he allegedly endured from Archbishop McCarrick and other priests triggered him to touch two 15-year-old boys inappropriately. In the letter he also claimed he saw Archbishop McCarrick having sex with a young priest and that the archbishop invited him to be next. The letter was in a file the priest provided to the Times on the condition his name not be used.

1995 October — Archbishop McCarrick hosts Pope John Paul II in Newark during his Oct. 4-9 visit to the United States.

2000 Nov. 21 — Archbishop McCarrick appointed by Pope John Paul as archbishop of Washington.

2000 Nov. 21, 24 — Seminary instructor Father Boniface Ramsey says he spoke Nov. 22 with Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the Vatican nuncio in Washington, about his concerns about Archbishop McCarrick. He also expressed his concerns in a letter addressed to the nuncio and mailed Nov. 24. Father Ramsey, who taught at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in New Jersey from 1986-1996, said he was told by seminarians about Archbishop McCarrick’s alleged sexual abuse at the New Jersey beach house.

2001 Jan. 3 — Archbishop McCarrick installed as archbishop of Washington and is elevated by Pope John Paul the next month to cardinal.

2002 April 23-24 — U.S. cardinals including Cardinal McCarrick meet at the Vatican for a summit with Pope John Paul as sex abuse crisis unfolds in the United States. Cardinal McCarrick is on drafting committee of document that emerges from summit. He also is a spokesman for the bishops in Rome and one of three U.S. prelates to give a news conference at the Vatican.

2002 April 28 — Cardinal McCarrick speaking on “Fox News Sunday” urges a distinction between past offenders and anyone who offends from now on. He said he supports the removal of any priest accused in the future but added that cardinals are divided about whether such a policy should be applied to past allegations.

2002 June — Cardinal McCarrick helps draft “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” in Dallas during a meeting of all the U.S. bishops. Charter does not specify abuse committed by bishops or cardinals or abuse of adults over the age of 18; a statement of commitment in the charter obliges bishops to report to the apostolic nuncio if they themselves are accused of sexually abusing a minor or if they become aware of an allegation of such abuse by a bishop. Cardinal McCarrick tells the Catholic Standard, his archdiocesan newspaper, that he had been hesitant to support the charter’s “no strikes” policy of removing from ministry everyone against whom there has been a credible charge of sexual abuse.

2004 — Unnamed priest who wrote letter to Bishop Hughes of Metuchen in 1994 claiming abuse by Archbishop McCarrick is forced to resign under the U.S. church’s new zero-tolerance policy against child abuse, based on his admission of having abused children in the 1994 letter.

2004 Oct. 1 — The Washingtonian magazine runs a profile article on Cardinal McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington. The article states that “for the past 20 years he has vacationed for a week every year on the New Jersey shore, where a friend loans him a house. He usually takes along a group of priests or seminarians.”

2005 — Robert Ciolek, former priest of the Diocese of Metuchen, receives a secret payment of $80,000 from the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark as a settlement for alleged abuse by Archbishop McCarrick.

2006 May 16 — Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation as archbishop of Washington is accepted by Pope Benedict XVI. He had submitted his resignation when he turned 75 on July 7, 2005, as required by canon law.

2007 — Unnamed former priest of the Diocese of Metuchen who was allegedly abused as a seminarian in 1987 in New York by Archbishop McCarrick receives secret settlement of $100,000 from the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark.

2008 April 22 — Richard Sipe, a former priest who was an adjunct professor at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, posts open letter on internet to Pope Benedict alleging Cardinal McCarrick sexual abused seminarians and young priests. He said seminarians came to him with their concerns while he was teaching at seminary.

2010 May 12 — Richard Sipe states in an internet post that the case of a financial settlement by the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark for Cardinal McCarrick was sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles clergy sex abuse claims among some of its responsibilities. He says the congregation has not responded. Sipe posts graphic information from the settlement about an alleged incident involving Archbishop McCarrick and a seminarian and two young priests.

2017 March 1 to April 15, 2018 — During this time the Archdiocese of New York receives an allegation that Msgr. McCarrick abused a teenage boy in 1971 and 1972. Allegation handled according to procedures in “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

2018, June 20 — New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan announces that Cardinal McCarrick has been removed from ministry at direction of the Vatican after an investigation by the Archdiocese of New York found credible a charge that he sexually abused a teenager.

2018, June 20 — Cardinal McCarrick issues statement saying that he was advised months ago by Cardinal Dolan about the allegation against him. Cardinal McCarrick maintains that he is innocent and says he does not have recollection of the abuse.

2018, June 20 — Newark Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin issues statement about Cardinal McCarrick saying the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen “received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these resulted in settlements.”

2018, June 20 — Metuchen Bishop James F. Checchio says a re-examination of diocesan archives did not uncover “any report or allegation that Cardinal McCarrick ever abused any minor during his time in Metuchen.” Bishop Checchio acknowledges that in the past there have been allegations that then-Bishop McCarrick engaged in sexual behavior with adults.

2018, June 20 — Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington issues statement saying that concurrent with the Archdiocese of New York investigation he requested a review be made of Washington archdiocesan records. He states that no claims were made against Cardinal McCarrick during the prelate’s time in Washington.

2018, July 16 — The New York Times publishes a front-page story detailing alleged abuse of two seminarians who became priests in the Diocese of Metuchen, by Cardinal McCarrick in the 1980s that resulted in settlements to both men. These are the settlements concerning “sexual misconduct with adults” as described by the Newark Archdiocese and Diocese of Metuchen June 20.

2018, July 24 — Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, issues a statement confirming that his office in 2015 received a letter from Father Boniface Ramsey alerting them to the abuse of Cardinal McCarrick. Cardinal O’Malley states he did not “personally receive” the letter and that at the staff level a reply was made to Father Ramsey that it “did not fall under the purview of the Commission or the Archdiocese of Boston.”

2018, July 28 — Pope Francis accepts resignation of Cardinal McCarrick from College of Cardinals and suspends him from public ministry. The pope orders him to a “life of prayer and penance” until the accusations against him are examined in a canonical trial.

2018, Aug. 1 — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, announces that the conference “will pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick’s conduct to the full extent of its authority.”

2018, September — The Archdiocese of Washington announces that Archbishop McCarrick has been sent to live among a small community of Capuchin Franciscan friars in rural Kansas.

2018, October — The Vatican issues a statement noting that a year ago there had been a thorough preliminary investigation into an allegation against Archbishop McCarrick and the results will be combined with a further study of documents.

2018, Dec. 27 — James Grein, a Virginia man who said Archbishop McCarrick sexually abused him for years beginning when he was 11, gives testimony before a judicial vicar for the New York Archdiocese.
His testimony was requested by the Vatican.

2019, Jan. 5 — The online Catholic news outlet Crux reports that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is reviewing a third case involving Archbishop McCarrick and a minor, one more case than previously reported.

2019, Jan. 10 — Church officials confirm that Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, now retired archbishop of Washington, had forwarded an allegation of sexual misconduct against Archbishop McCarrick to the papal nuncio in Washington in 2004, when the cardinal was bishop of Pittsburgh.

2019, Feb. 13 — Dioceses in the state of New Jersey make public the names of priests whom they said had been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of minors, including Archbishop McCarrick. His inclusion is based “on the findings of the Archdiocese of New York that allegations of abuse of a minor against then-Father McCarrick were credible and substantiated.”

2019, Feb. 16 — Pope Francis confirms McCarrick’s removal from the priesthood after he was 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.”



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