UPDATE: McCarrick’s alleged victim ‘left with nothing’ after ex-prelate ruled incompetent to face trial

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick outside the Dedham District Court on Friday, Sept. 3. Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick outside the Dedham District Court on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. | Joe Bukuras / CNA

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick is not competent to stand trial on criminal sexual abuse charges in Massachusetts, a state district judge ruled Wednesday in criminal court. 

The dismissal of the charges follows separate examinations of McCarrick’s mental health by health professionals hired by both his and the state’s legal teams, both of which concurred on his incompetence.

McCarrick, 93, was charged in state court with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14 relating to allegations that he sexually abused a teenager who was a family friend at a wedding ceremony in the 1970s at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. 

That teenager was identified by NorthJersey.com in February as James Grein, a now-64-year-old former New Jersey resident.

Norfolk assistant district attorneys Lisa Beatty, Alix Beamon, and Meagan Monahan asked Dedham District Court Judge Paul McCallum to dismiss the case against McCarrick citing his incompetence to stand trial, a court filing for Aug. 30 said.

McCarrick was not in the courtroom but was present through video conference, the New York Times reported. He did not say anything during the proceedings.

The Times reported that the state’s psychologist who examined McCarrick testified in court Wednesday that McCarrick has cognitive issues and “deficits of his memory and ability to retain information.”

Neither of McCarrick’s lawyers issued comment following the ruling.

David Traub, a spokesperson for the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office, said in a statement that “after defense came forward with a report finding him incompetent several months ago, the Commonwealth hired an independent expert to fly to Missouri and conduct an independent evaluation.”

“That evaluation also found a lack of competency to assist in his defense, as required to go forward. The judge heard that information today and ruled McCarrick incompetent,” he said.

The charges in Dedham were the first criminal charges that McCarrick has ever faced following several accusations of sexual abuse of minors and seminarians, which led to his removal from the clerical state in 2019. 

However, criminal sexual assault charges filed against McCarrick in Wisconsin in April are still pending, as are a number of civil lawsuits.

The watchdog group BishopAccountability.org, which keeps an online database of sexual abuse by clergy on its website, issued a statement Wednesday sharply critical of the case’s outcome.

“Today is a reminder of the Catholic hierarchy’s cynical strategy of cover-up,” the group’s co-director Anne Barrett Doyle said in the statement.

“McCarrick’s predations were an open secret. Many of his fellow cardinals and bishops knew, and they did nothing. They didn’t report him to law enforcement, they didn’t go public with the information, and they didn’t reach out to those he assaulted,” she said.

“McCarrick might have been prosecuted years ago if even one of his brother bishops had called the police,” Doyle added. “Instead, yet again, a predator has evaded accountability. While the institution may been spared the embarrassment of an ex-cardinal on trial, the disgrace of its complicity with McCarrick remains.”

James Grein responds

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In a statement filed with the court dated Aug. 30, Grein accused McCarrick’s legal team of “coaching” the former prelate for the psychiatrist’s interviews.

“His defense attorneys seem to have run out of continuances to delay the proceedings further, so they moved on to the competency issues,” he said.

“Only they and Mr. McCarrick know the extent of the coaching to prepare him for his two interviews. If McCarrick is found incompetent, they will have won and justice will have lost,” he wrote.

Grein also said that the dismissal of the case and McCarrick’s subsequent freedom could result in “retaliation from his followers.”

He said that when he went public with allegations against McCarrick in 2018, “McCarrick sent followers to my house to remind me that he is the ‘most powerful man in the U.S., if not the world.’”

Grein’s allegations in 2018 were recorded in an interview with the New York Times, which referred to him only by his first name. He told the newspaper that McCarrick had serially sexually abused him beginning when he was 11.

“The first time he said this to me was in 2012 at the funeral of my mother,” Grein recounted in his Aug. 30 court statement. “His sinister eyes and voice warned me of retaliation if I went public.”

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Referring to a neurological exam of McCarrick conducted by psychiatrist David Schretlen, who was hired by the defense, Grein said: “I have trouble reconciling the concept that someone who is intelligent and articulate is also not competent to stand trial and answer for his actions.”

Grein said that McCarrick was “part of my immediate family since 1945,” therefore he was able to witness the former prelate’s rise “to the top of the Church.”

“He was charismatic, intelligent, and witty. His mind could work fast and he could control his audience rather quickly. He was brilliant and, methinks, still is,” he said.

“These proceedings were to have provided a modest level of payback,” he said.

“I brought the charges in this matter in the hope of finding justice in this court,” he added. “Instead, McCarrick walks a free man and I am left with nothing. Nothing except the continuing fear of the twice-threatened retaliation.”

‘I pray a lot’

When McCarrick was examined by Schretlen Dec. 5, 2022, the physician’s report concluded that McCarrick has a “severe cognitive disorder” and “everyday functional disability” that classifies as dementia and is most likely due to Alzeimer’s disease.

In June, psychologist Kerry Nelligan examined McCarrick at his residence in Missouri, the Vianney Renewal Center, on behalf of the state, which was included in court documents. She found that McCarrick “is suffering from an organic process of cognitive decline” that will not improve.

In it, conversations between McCarrick and Nelligan are included, with recordings of McCarrick’s answers being contradictory and oftentimes forgetful.

When asked the last time he celebrated Mass, he said: “When you retire, you don’t retire from Mass. I offer Mass every day.”

The report then said that Nelligan asked if McCarrick still offered Mass. “No. Now I’m not able to because at a certain point in time when you reach a certain age…” he responded, trailing off. “I offer Mass from time to time.”

McCarrick acknowledged that he was not an active member of the clergy and that he had lost his standing in the Church.

In Nelligan’s findings, she cited Schretlen’s report, in which McCarrick said that he has had “a small number of strokes” that resulted in “a bit of aphasia,” a condition affecting the way one communicates and understanding written word and speech, according to the Mayo Clinic.

According to McCarrick’s medical records, he suffers from a variety of conditions including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, chronic kidney disease, heart failure, atherosclerotic heart disease of the native coronary artery, atrial fibrillation — treated by a pacemaker — and “a history” of transient ischemic attacks, otherwise known as mini-strokes.

He also had his left knee replaced three to four years ago.

When he was asked how he spends his free time, McCarrick said: “I pray a lot. I read a lot of church stuff. I play bingo. I won around Easter time… five dollars.”

In the interviews with McCarrick, Nelligan wrote that he “demonstrated significant deficits in all aspects of his memory.”

“In summary, based on the data available to me at this time, it is my opinion that Dr. McCarrick does not present with the skills and abilities typically associated with competence to stand trial,” Nelligan wrote.

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