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Vatican Defrocks Former US Cardinal 02/16 10:40
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis has defrocked former U.S. Cardinal
Theodore McCarrick after Vatican officials found him guilty of soliciting for
sex while hearing confession and of sexual crimes against minors and adults,
the Holy See said Saturday.
McCarrick, 88, is the highest-ranking Catholic churchman to be laicized, as
the process is called. It means he can no longer celebrate Mass or other
sacraments, wear clerical vestments or be addressed by any religious title. He
is the first churchman who reached the rank of cardinal to be defrocked in the
church's sex abuse scandals.
The punishment for the once-powerful prelate, who had served as the
archbishop of Washington, spent years in New Jersey dioceses and had been an
influential fundraiser for the church, was announced five days before Francis
leads an extraordinary gathering of bishops from around the world to help the
church grapple with the crisis of sex abuse by clergy and the systematic
cover-ups by church hierarchy. The decades-long scandals have shaken the faith
of many Catholics and threaten Francis' papacy.
The scandal swirling around McCarrick was particularly damning to the
church's reputation because it apparently was an open secret in some church
circles that he slept with adult seminarians. Francis removed McCarrick as a
cardinal in July after a U.S. church investigation determined that an
allegation he fondled a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible.
The Vatican's press office said the Holy See's doctrinal watchdog office,
the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, found McCarrick on Jan. 11
guilty of "solicitation in the sacrament of confession, and sins against the
Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of the
abuse of power." The commandment forbids adultery.
The officials "imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from the clerical
state." It considered his appeal on Wednesday and upheld its ruling, telling
McCarrick Friday of that decision, the Vatican said.
McCarrick, when he was ordained a priest in his native New York City in
1958, took a vow of celibacy in accordance with church rules on priests.
The pope "has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in
accordance with (church) law, rendering it as 'res iudicata,'" the Vatican
said, using the Latin phrase for admitting no further recourse.
One victim, James Grein, the son of a family friend of McCarrick's, had
testified to church officials that, among other abuses, McCarrick had
repeatedly groped him during confession. He said the abuse, which went on for
decades, began when he was 11.
"Today I am happy that the pope believed me," Grein said in a statement
issued through his lawyer.
Grein also expressed hope that McCarrick "will no longer be able to use the
power of Jesus' church to manipulate families and sexually abuse children."
Adding that it's "time for us to cleanse the church," Grein said pressure
needs to be put on state attorney generals and senators to change the statute
of limitations for abuse cases.
"Hundreds of priests, bishops and cardinals are hiding behind man-made law,"
McCarrick's civil lawyer, Barry Coburn, told The Associated Press that for
the time being his client had no comment on the defrocking. Coburn also
declined to say if McCarrick was still residing at the Kansas friary where he
had moved to when Francis ordered him to live in penance and prayer while the
The archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where McCarrick was posted at the
pinnacle of his clerical career, from 2001-2006, said in a statement it hoped
that the Vatican decision "serves to help the healing process for survivors of
abuse, as well as those who have experienced disappointment or disillusionment
because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done."
Complaints were also made about McCarrick's conduct in the New Jersey
dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, where he previously served.
Francis' move marks a remarkable downfall for the globe-trotting powerbroker
and influential church fundraiser who mingled with presidents and popes but
preferred to be called "Uncle Ted" by the young men he courted.
The Vatican summit, which starts Thursday and runs through Feb. 24, will
draw church leaders from around the world to talk about preventing sex abuse.
It was called in part to respond to the McCarrick scandal as well as to the
explosion of the abuse crisis in Chile and its escalation in the United States
Despite the apparent common knowledge in church circles of his sexual
behavior, McCarrick rose to the heights of church power. He even acted as the
spokesman for U.S. bishops when they enacted a "zero tolerance" policy against
sexually abusive priests in 2002.
That apparent hypocrisy, coupled with allegations in the Pennsylvania grand
jury report detailing decades of abuse and cover-up in six dioceses, outraged
many among the rank-and-file faithful who had trusted church leaders to reform
how they handled sex abuse after 2002.
The allegation regarding the altar boy was the first known against McCarrick
to involve a minor --- a far more serious offense than sleeping with adult
Francis himself became implicated in the decade-long McCarrick cover-up
after a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. accused the pope of
rehabilitating the cardinal from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI despite
being told of his penchant for young men.
Francis hasn't responded to those claims. But he has ordered a limited
Vatican investigation. The Vatican has acknowledged the outcome may produce
evidence that mistakes were made, but said Francis would "follow the path of
truth, wherever it may lead."
An advocate for church accountability in the sex abuse crisis demanded
Saturday that Francis "tell the truth about what he knew and when he knew it"
about McCarrick. Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org says also
demanded that the pope use immediately laicize other abusive bishops.
In a statement, she said of the 101 accused bishops her group has tracked,
McCarrick is only the seventh to be laicized. She said the other 94 either
still hold the title of bishop or did so until they died.
Vatican watchers have compared the McCarrick cover-up scandal to that of the
Rev. Marcial Maciel, perhaps the 20th-century Catholic Church's most notorious
pedophile. Maciel's sex crimes against children were ignored for decades by a
Vatican bureaucracy impressed by his ability to bring in donations and
vocations. Among Maciel's staunchest admirers was Pope John Paul II, who later
became a saint.
Like Maciel, McCarrick was a powerful, popular prelate who funneled millions
in donations to the Vatican. He apparently got a calculated pass for what many
in the church hierarchy would have either discounted as ideological-fueled
rumor or brushed off as a mere "moral lapse" in sleeping with adult men.