Pope Francis defrocks former Cardinal McCarrick, archbishop of Washington over sex abuse
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 sexual crimes against minors and adults, the Holy See said Saturday.
The punishment for the once-powerful prelate, who had served as the archbishop of Washington and had been an influential fundraiser for the church, was announced five days before Francis is set to lead an extraordinary gathering of bishops from around the world to help the church grapple with the crisis of sex abuse by clergy and systematic cover-ups by church hierarchy. The decades-long scandals have shaken the faith of many Catholics and threatened Francis' papacy.
Defrocking means McCarrick, 88, who now lives in a friary in Kansas after he lost his title of cardinal last year, can no longer celebrate Mass or other sacraments, wear clerical vestments or be addressed by any religious title.
The Vatican's press office said that on Jan. 11, the Holy See's doctrinal watchdog office, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, had found McCarrick 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 officials "imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state."
The commandment cited regards sexual behavior.
The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. released a statement on the Holy See's judgement on the former Archbishop, stating:
The imposition on former Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of the penalty of his dismissal from the clerical state, thus prohibiting him any type of priestly ministry, underscores the gravity of his actions.
Our hope and prayer is that this 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. We also pray that the Church may be guided to move forward in her mission.
McCarrick, when he was ordained a priest 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.
"Today I am happy that the pope believed me," said one of McCarrick's chief accusers, James Grein.
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."
Grein had testified to church officials that, among other abuses, McCarrick had repeatedly groped him during confession.
Saying 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. "Hundreds of priests, bishops and cardinals are hiding behind man-made law," he said.
McCarrick had appealed his penalty, but the doctrinal officials earlier this week rejected that, and he was notified of the decision on Friday, the Vatican announcement said.
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.
McCarrick, a one-time "prince of the church," as cardinals are known, becomes the highest-ranking churchman to be laicized, or dismissed from the clerical state. It 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 scandal swirling around McCarrick was even more damning to the church's reputation in the eyes of the faithful because it apparently was an open secret that he slept with adult seminarians.
The Vatican summit, running Feb. 21-24, draws church leaders from around the world to talk about preventing 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 last year.
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 perceived 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.
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. It was the fir