Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick makes first court appearance, pleads not guilty

mccarrick court Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick outside Dedham District Court for his arraignment on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. / Joe Bukuras/CNA
McCarrick court Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and his attorney Katherine Zimmerl outside the Dedham District Court on Friday, Sept. 3. / Joe Bukuras/CNA
McCarrick court Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick outside the Dedham District Court on Friday, Sept. 3. / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick pleaded ‘not guilty’ on Friday to several charges of sexual assault, while appearing for the first time in a Massachusetts court.

McCarrick, 91, has been charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, incidents which allegedly took place in the 1970s. Each of the three criminal charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. 

He appeared for his arraignment on Friday in Dedham District Court, accompanied by his attorney Katherine Zimmerl, of the firm Coburn & Greenbaum. The court entered a "not guilty" plea on his behalf. McCarrick’s next court date is Oct. 28, and his bail was set at $5,000.

Under conditions stated by Judge Michael J. Pomarole, McCarrick is not allowed to leave the United States and must surrender his passport. He may not have contact with anyone under the age of 18.

Once a high-ranking and influential U.S. prelate with an impressive international resume, McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018 following a past allegation of sex abuse against a teenager that the New York archdiocese deemed credible. In February 2019, Pope Francis laicized McCarrick after a canonical investigation found him 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.” 

“Today’s arraignment provides hope for many clergy sex abuse victims and survivors that justice will prevail, truth will be told and children will be kept safe,” said Mitchell Garabedian, attorney for the alleged victim of McCarrick, after the arraignment on Friday.

“My client, a courageous clergy sexual abuse survivor, is strong and is ready to face Cardinal McCarrick in court and proceed throughout the entire trial,” Garabedian said. “This day for my client is very emotional. He’s been waiting for this day for decades. And he is just riding an emotional roller coaster right now.”

After reporters asked if his client would speak with the press, Garabedian replied, “no not at this time.”

McCarrick’s criminal charges stem from a series of sexual assaults alleged to have taken place on June 8, 1974 at Wellesley College. According to court documents, McCarrick assaulted the alleged victim at the wedding reception of his brother. The alleged victim was 16 at the time.

It is unknown where McCarrick will be staying until his next day in court. The original criminal complaint listed McCarrick's address as a location in Dittmer, Missouri, 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.

Sept. 3 marks the first time the disgraced ex-prelate has stepped foot in criminal court since accusations of long-standing sexual misconduct first came to light three years ago.

In June 2018, McCarrick was removed from ministry following an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in 1974. He resigned from the College of Cardinals on July 28, 2018, becoming the first-ever cardinal to resign due to accusations of sexual abuse. Allegations of serial sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests soon followed, and it was revealed that several dioceses had paid settlements to men who were abused by McCarrick. 

Pope Francis sentenced McCarrick to a life of prayer and penance in 2018, pending the outcome of a canonical process. The canonical process concluded on Feb. 16, 2019, with McCarrick being 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.” 

He was subsequently dismissed from the clerical state.

McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958 and was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York in 1977. He was named as the first bishop of the newly-created Diocese of Metuchen in 1981. 

More in US

In 1986, McCarrick was appointed archbishop of Newark, where he stayed for the next 15 years. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals on February 21, 2001, just under two months after he was installed as the archbishop of Washington. McCarrick retired from active ministry in 2006, at the age of 75. 

An earlier version of this story reported that McCarrick verbally stated his “not guilty” plea. The plea was entered on his behalf.

This story was updated on Sept. 3 with additional information.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.