Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick charged with sexual assault of a minor

Ted McCarrick Theodore McCarrick before his laicization/ Copyright Mazur_catholicchurch.org.uk

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is facing charges of sexually assaulting a teenage boy in Massachusetts in the 1970s, marking the first time the disgraced ex-prelate has been criminally charged since accusations of longstanding sexual misconduct by him first came to light three years ago.

McCarrick, now 91, is charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, according to court documents filed July 28 in District Court in Dedham, MA. McCarrick has not been arrested, the court documents show, and is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 26 for his arraignment to formally answer the charges. Each of the three criminal charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The charges were first reported Thursday by the Boston Globe. Neither McCarrick nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Thursday.

Long a powerful and high-profile Catholic leader in the United States with an impressive international resume, McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state by Pope Francis in 2019, after the Vatican conducted an expedited canonical investigation and found McCarrick 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.”

You can read the full text of the criminal complaint below. Out of privacy and safety concerns, CNA has redacted McCarrick's Social Security Number and phone number, which were left unredacted in the criminal complaint. Warning: These documents describe incidents of alleged sexual assaults in graphic detail.

The criminal complaint was signed Wednesday by a Wellesley, MA police detective in Massachusetts' Dedham District Court. The criminal investigation appears to have been set in motion by a letter sent to the Middlesex District Attorney by the Boston-based attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, representing McCarrick's alleged victim, who is now in his 60s, court records show.

Documents accompanying the criminal complaint refer to "various incidents of abuse by McCarrick, most of which took place outside of Massachusetts," in New Jersey, New York and California.

The criminal charges stem from a series of sexual assaults alleged to have to have taken place on June 8, 1974 during the wedding reception of the alleged victim's brother. The alleged victim was 16 at the time, court records show.

The wedding and the reception were held at Wellesley College, where the brother’s new wife had attended school, according to court documents.

McCarrick is described in court documents as a close friend of the alleged victim's family at the time who took "trips with his family" and presided over the family's baptisms, weddings and funerals. The alleged victim told authorities that his uncle had attended Fordham Prep with McCarrick and had introduced the gregarious priest to the family.

According to the court documents, the alleged victim was approached by McCarrick while the wedding reception was going on, ostensibly at the boy's father’s request, because he was skipping Mass and being “mischievous.”

“We need to go outside and have a conversation,” McCarrick said, according to court documents.

During a walk around the campus, the alleged victim stopped to urinate in the bushes, and while he was doing so McCarrick allegedly came over to the boy, stating, "Here, let me help you with that," and then placing his hand on the boy's genitals, according to court documents.

When McCarrick and the boy returned to the reception, McCarrick allegedly took him into a small coat room and told the boy that he needed to go to confession, court documents state. McCarrick allegedly instructed the boy to pull down his pants and allegedly sexually assaulted him again, telling the boy afterward to "say three our fathers and a hail Mary or it was one our father and three hail Mary's, so god can redeem you of your sins," according to notes of the alleged victim's interview with authorities included in the court documents.

The alleged victim told authorities that at the time of that assault he “knew what was going to happen” next 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 court documents.

McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958 and became auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York in 1977. He became in 1981 Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, then Archbishop of Newark in 1986, and then in 2001 Archbishop of Washington, DC, where he retired in 2006.

More in US

He became a cardinal in 2001, but resigned from the College of Cardinals after it emerged in June 2018 that he had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting a minor. Allegations of serial sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests soon followed, and McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state in February 2019.

The criminal complaint lists McCarrick's address as a location in Dittmer, MO, which is the site of the Vianney Renewal Center. The center is a treatment facility run by the Servants of the Paraclete, which, according to its website, provides "a safe and supportive environment for the rehabilitation and reconciliation of priests and religious brothers." The Servants of the Paraclete have long operated centers for the treatment of priests and religious with problems of sexual or substance abuse.

McCarrick lived in the St. Fidelis Friary of the Capuchin Franciscans in Victoria, Kan., from shortly after he was publicly accused of abuse in 2018, until the opening days of 2020. At that time, senior Church officials told CNA he had moved to a residential community of priests who have been removed from ministry.

The former cardinal himself made the decision to leave the Kansas friary over the Christmas 2019 period, sources said, adding that his continued presence in the friary had become a strain on the Capuchin community that was hosting him.

According to Jeffrey Anderson, a prominent attorney for sex abuse victims, McCarrick resided in the rectory of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York at the time of the alleged abuse in 1974.

As CNA previously reported, in 1971 McCarrick became secretary to New York’s Cardinal Terence Cooke and lived in the rectory attached to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He also grew close with several large Catholic families in the area in the years that followed. He called teenage children in these families “nieces” and “nephews” while accepting the nickname “Uncle Ted,” and traveled regularly with teenagers he befriended, including on overnight trips.

"Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's history of prolific sex crimes has been ignored by the highest-ranking Catholic officials for decades," Anderson said Thursday. "For too long Catholic institutions have been self-policing while making pledges and promises without action. McCarrick should be behind bars for his crimes."

McCarrick’s public disgrace in 2018 and dismissal from the clerical state a year later shocked Catholics in the United States and around the world, and triggered an international crisis of credibility for the Church’s hierarchy, leading to Pope Francis calling an unprecedented meeting of the world’s bishops in 2019 to address issues of sexual abuse and accountability in the Church.

(Story continues below)

The fallout of the 2018 allegations against McCarrick, and reports that Church leaders knew for years about possible instances of misconduct but failed to act, also contributed to Pope Francis’ promulgation of Vos estis lux mundi, a new provision in canon law allowing for the investigation and trial of bishops for the failure to act on allegations.