Cardinal McCarrick suspended from public ministry after abuse allegation

(CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, said on June 20 he will no longer exercise any public ministry "in obedience" to the Vatican after an allegation he abused a teenager 47 years ago was found credible.

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, where Cardinal McCarrick served as its first bishop, said in a statement the same day that he had been advised that "Cardinal McCarrick himself has disputed this allegation and is appealing this matter through the canonical process."

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"While shocked by the report, and while maintaining my innocence," Cardinal McCarrick said in his statement, "I considered it essential that the charges be reported to the police, thoroughly investigated by an independent agency and given to the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York. I fully cooperated in the process."

Cardinal McCarrick said that "some months ago" he was informed of the allegation by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

"My sadness was deepened when I was informed that the allegations had been determined credible and substantiated," Cardinal McCarrick said.

Cardinal Dolan, in a June 20 statement, said it was "the first such report of a violation" against Cardinal McCarrick "of which the archdiocese was aware."

In separate statements, Bishop Checchio and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey—where Cardinal McCarrick served in-between his appointments to Metuchen and Washington—said this was their first notice that Cardinal McCarrick had been accused of sexual abuse of a minor.

"In the past, there have been allegations that he engaged in sexual behavior with adults," Cardinal Tobin said. "This archdiocese and the Diocese of Metuchen received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements."

Cardinal McCarrick, who turns 88 July 7, was ordained a priest of the New York Archdiocese on May 31, 1958. He was ordained auxiliary bishop of New York on May 24, 1977, six years after the incident of abuse is believed to have occurred.

He was appointed the first bishop of Metuchen in 1981 and was named archbishop of Newark in 1986. He was installed as archbishop of Washington in 2001. He was made a cardinal on Feb. 21, 2001, and retired as head of the Washington Archdiocese on May 16, 2006.

Cardinal Dolan said the alleged abuse occurred during the time Cardinal McCarrick served as an archdiocesan priest in New York.

He added the allegation was turned over to law enforcement officials, and was then thoroughly investigated by an independent forensic agency, as per the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" first approved by the U.S. bishops in 2002.

"The Holy See was alerted as well, and encouraged us to continue the process," he added. "Again according to our public protocol, the results of the investigation were then given to the Archdiocesan Review Board, a seasoned group of professionals including jurists, law enforcement experts, parents, psychologists, a priest, and a religious sister."

The Archdiocese of New York "renews its apology to all victims abused by priests," Cardinal Dolan said. "We also thank the victim for courage in coming forward and participating in our independent reconciliation and compensation program, as we hope this can bring a sense of resolution and fairness."

The Archdiocese of Washington said in a June 20 statement that "the Holy See ... has exclusive authority in the oversight of a cardinal" and referred the matter to the New York Archdiocese.

It added the instruction for Cardinal McCarrick to refrain from exercising public ministry came "at the direction of our Holy Father, Pope Francis," and was delivered by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Cardinal Tobin said he recognized the "range of emotions" felt by Newark-area Catholics upon hearing the news. "I am thinking particularly of those who have experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy -- whose lives have been impacted tragically by abuse," he added. "To those survivors, their families and loved ones, I offer my sincere apologies and my commitment of prayer and action to support you in your healing."

At the same time, "no doubt many of you developed strong relationships with him and appreciate the impact of his service," Cardinal Tobin said. "Those feelings are likely hard to reconcile with the news of a credible and substantiated claim of abuse of a minor."

"The abuse of anyone who is vulnerable is both shameful and horrific. The abuse of a minor by a priest—as is being reported in this case from New York—is an abomination and sickens and saddens us all," Bishop Checchio said.

"The work of building the kingdom of God in this diocese is much more than its bishops, and I thank you for all of your help here in the Diocese of Metuchen in supporting our common mission," he added.

Cardinals Dolan, Tobin and Wuerl and Bishop Checchio all asked for prayers for those involved, and recommitted themselves to support of clergy sexual abuse victims.

Cardinal McCarrick is not the first cardinal to have had his ministry restricted after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, who died in 2003, was asked by St. John Paul II in 1998 to give up his public duties amid allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

The most senior church official to face criminal charges in connection with child sexual abuse is Australian Cardinal George Pell, head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy. He took a leave of absence from his position in the summer of 2017 to face charges of sexual abuse of minors from the 1970s, when he was a priest, and the 1990s, when he was archbishop of Melbourne. 

Although Cardinal Pell has consistently denied the charges, in early May an Australian magistrate ordered him to stand trial, saying she believed there was enough evidence presented in connection with about half the original charges to warrant a full trial.

This report was updated on  June 20 at 12:28 p.m. ET.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Will Niermeyer
4 months 3 weeks ago

Imagine two settlements with adults and no one knew this happened. How do was ever trust our kids to be alone with a priest!!! Just the thought of my small children going into a confessional room all alone is repulsive and will no longer happen. Enough is enough. Save the children from priests how on earth can they be trusted ever again.

J. Calpezzo
4 months 3 weeks ago

Roger Mahony.

Joshua DeCuir
4 months 3 weeks ago

Boy, the Queen of England is looking pretty good as a political, not to mention ecclesial, leader these days.

If other reports have credibility, such as Rod Dreher, McCarrick could turn out to be the Harvey Weinstein of the US Catholic Church. These reports also suggest that prominent East Coast media outlets & reporters knew of McCarrick’s repuatuation & were silent. Would be interesting to know if Tom Reese heard any allegations. Was McCarrick given a pass?

Carolyn Disco
4 months 3 weeks ago

Here are excerpts from the legal settlement documents re: McCarrick's misconduct with seminarians/young priests. The full story is at http://awrsipe.com/Comments/2008-04-21-McCarrick_Syndrome.html by Richard Sipe. How could McCarrick rise up the ladder to cardinal archbishop in DC with his record of abuse, with financial settlements to boot? More cases of unexamined files or of evidence purposely hidden?
"The facts are clear, simple, and typical of the heritage of tolerance of abuse and cover-up inculcated by Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Newark (1986-2000) and perpetuated by his successors. There is documentation that records McCarrick’s sexual activity and sleeping arrangements with seminarians and young priests even when he served as the first bishop of Metuchen after serving as an auxiliary bishop in New York.
On file are the unsealed “MEDIATION DOCUMENTATION FOR FR. G.” that involved McCarrick, the dioceses of Metuchen and Newark, NJ. (2006) A financial settlement was reached. The case was sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, but it has not yet responded. Documents include the history of McCarrick’s initial sexual gesture and approach to the victim then a seminarian, in the bishop’s Metuchen residence in 1986. Documentation includes hand written correspondence (letters and cards) from McCarrick postmarked between 1987 and 2005. Many of the letters are signed “Uncle Ted.” The names of other priests who were either seen having sex with McCarrick or witnessed McCarrick having sex with another priest are also included in the file. One of the priests is still in active ministry another left the ministry and was assisted by the church and McCarrick to re-educate for another profession. The names of other sexually active priests are also in the reports. Records of McCarrick’s activities with these priests are also included in medical evaluations and records all reviewed by Bishop Hughes of Metuchen already in 1995.
Excerpts from the legal Settlement Documents include firsthand accounts that are also in the Newark Archdiocese records of an incident on a trip with McCarrick, then Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, with a seminarian and two young priests when they shared a room with two double beds, it reads:
· McCarrick, wearing just underwear, got into bed with one of the priests: “Bishop McCarrick was sitting on the crotch of Fr. RC As I was watching TV with Fr BL [full names appear in the documents], bishop McCarrick was smiling and laughing and moving his hands all over Fr. RC’s body. Bishop McCarrick was touching Fr. C’s body, rubbing his hands from head to toe and having a good time, occasionally placing his hands underneath Fr. C’s underwear. [I was] feeling very uncomfortable while trying to focus on television, and Fr. B.L., started smiling. As I looked at the bed next to me, Bishop McCarrick was excitedly caressing the full body of Fr. R.C. At that moment, I made eye contact [with] Bishop McCarrick. He smiled at me saying, “Don’t worry, you’re next.” At that moment, I felt the hand of Fr. B.L. rubbing my back and shoulders. I felt sick to my stomach and went under the covers and pretended to sleep.”
McCarrick continued to pursue the young man, sent him notes and telephoned him. Notes reveal that it was the custom the Archbishop McCarrick to call his protégés “nephew” and encouraged his entourage to call each other “cousin” and for them to call him “uncle Ted.”

On another occasion McCarrick summoned the young man to drive him from the Newark Cathedral to New York City. He took him to dinner; and after, rather than returning to Newark as anticipated McCarrick went to a one-room apartment that housed one bed and a recliner chair. McCarrick said that he would take the chair, but after showering he turned off the lights and clad in his underwear he climbed into bed with his guest. Here is the account from the documents:
· “He put his arms around me and wrapped his legs around mine. Then He started to tell me what a nice young man I was and what a good priest I would make someday. He also told me about the hard work and stress he was facing in his new role as Archbishop of Newark. He told me how everyone knows him and how powerful he was. The Archbishop kept saying, “Pray for your poor uncle.” All of a sudden, I felt paralyzed. I didn’t have my own car and there was nowhere to go. The Archbishop started to kiss me and move his hands and legs around me. I remained frozen, curled up like a ball. I felt his penis inside his underwear leaning against my buttocks as he was rubbing my legs up and down. His hands were moving up and down my chest and back, while tightening his legs around mine. I tried to scream but could not…I was paralyzed with fear. As he continued touching me, I felt more afraid. He even tried several times to force his hands under my shorts. He tried to roll me over so that he could get on top of me, but I resisted, I felt sick and disgusted and finally was able to jump out of bed. I went into the bathroom where I vomited several times and started to cry. After twenty minutes in the bathroom, the Archbishop told me to come back to bed. Instead I went to the recliner and pretended to fall asleep.”
In a letter dated four days after this incident McCarrick wrote a note signed “Uncle Ted” that said in part: “I just wanted to say thanks for coming on Friday evening. I really enjoyed our visit. You’re a great kid and I know the Lord will continue to bless you…Your uncle has great spots to take you to!!!”

Robert Lewis
4 months 3 weeks ago

Rod Dreher suggests that mandatory clerical celibacy has been a factor in creating "the conspiracy of silence" that enabled these particular abuses. He's probably right, and there is no canonical reason against getting rid of it--at least for parish priests, as opposed to monks. We could choose bishops, cardinals, patriarchs and the pope from among the celibates.

Michael Barberi
4 months 3 weeks ago

This disgraceful account of Cardinal McCormick's sexual misconduct is only one of the many examples of sexual abuse, pervasive in the Catholic Church for decades, and possibly even centuries. The coverup of such crimes and the reassignment of a priest or, in this case, the promotion of bishop is more important in the eyes of the hierarchy then dealing effectively and judiciously with problem. IMO, the real problem is the clerical culture that must change big time in order to restore credibility to priests and bishops and the entire Catholic leadership in general.

While forgiveness and mercy must always be exercised in the judgment of a priest or bishop's conduct, so does the requirement of transparency, justice in light of the long term harm perpetrated upon the victims.

Bruce Snowden
4 months 3 weeks ago

I read lengthy information earlier today on, On Line AMERICA, for some reason no longer there, which told about the Where, When, Who, of Cardinal Mc Carrick’s disgraceful sexual behaviors and I have three things to say, which I’ve posted on a connected Mc Carrick story.

I apologize for the blunt crudeness of this part of my comment, which I’ve tried to cover with humor, but as the saying goes, “A stiff (say first name of comic book detective last name Tracy) has no conscience!” So true, apparently no matter who!

Cardinal Mc Carrick has an out of control demon within, unlawful, illegal sexuality mostly with minors, that needs psychiatric treatment.

We pray for the young people he traumatized, that they will find peace of mind and a successful life. Pray too for the Cardinal that if arrested, convicted and sent to prison, he will make prison his place of repentant prayer. If he escapes prison may he spend the rest of his life in monastic enclosure given to daily prayer and penance, for the rest of his life.

Carolyn Disco
4 months 3 weeks ago

McCarrick's claim of innocence is an insult, and yet he has the gall to be "sorry for the pain the person... has gone through." Read Rod Dreher's article with his compelling history of 16 years of research on McCarrick at http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/church-cardinal-mccarrick… .
"Innocence? I believe McCarrick is lying, and that he knows he is lying. I have been waiting for this story to break since 2002."
I never wrote the story about McCarrick, because I could not get anybody to go on the record. That spring, I fielded more than a few calls from Catholic priests from the New Jersey area who had direct personal knowledge of McCarrick’s sexual derring-do with seminarians. They would phone me, tell me what they knew, and then beg me to “do something”! I would tell them that I could do nothing until and unless they provided documents, and/or were willing to put their name to public accusations.
Nobody could or would do that. Whenever I would see Cardinal McCarrick on television that spring, wringing his hands about how terrible the abuse scandal was, and how the hierarchy really had no idea how extensive the crisis was, yadda yadda, I knew that I was looking at a world-class liar and hypocrite. Moreover, I knew for a fact that the Vatican had been warned about “Uncle Ted” before moving him to Washington, and that those warnings had meant nothing, because hey, Uncle Ted was well connected, and he was a champion fundraiser for the Church."
"Let me make this clear: The Vatican had been warned in person, by credible Catholic laymen, and a Catholic priest in a position to know, that as Archbishop of Newark, Theodore McCarrick would compel seminarians under his authority to get in bed with him and cuddle him. These laymen traveled to Rome at their own expense to warn the Vatican about this man’s sickness."
"Believe me, this single incident from the life of Uncle Ted, fifty years ago, is not the only one. I hope and pray to God that Theodore McCarrick is about to have his #MeToo moment. There are more, many more, stories to be told about Uncle Ted and his “ministry” to young men under his authority in the Church. I am grateful that they will now be coming out while he is still around to face some kind of justice, if only in the court of public opinion.
As Dreher was working on the story, "a personal friend of McCarrick’s — a closeted gay man, someone whose name you would know — contacted the news organization for which I was working on this story. The caller did so on McCarrick’s behalf, trying to get me pulled off the story. I won’t go into details, but the man who made the call conceded that McCarrick was guilty, but insisted that no laws had been broken, and therefore it wasn’t a big deal. My supervisor on the story, to his great credit, simply said to keep digging, but to keep him informed.
"And there’s this: that Cardinal McCarrick was a sexual predator of some sort was the worst-kept secret among the East Coast media covering the church abuse scandal."
"A word for all you Catholic priests and laymen who contacted me 16 years ago about Cardinal McCarrick, and told me what you knew, but who would not go on the record about it — it is time for you to find your voice. Speak up." Amen.

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