A group known as BishopAccountability.org, which tracks sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, condemned a Massachusetts district judge’s Wednesday decision to dismiss criminal charges against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

The criminal charges involving the sexual assault and abuse of a minor were dismissed Wednesday after a judge ruled McCarrick, 93, was not mentally competent to stand trial.

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the bishops accountability group, told CNA that “the dismissal of the case against McCarrick is hugely disappointing” and that “our hearts go out to the courageous victim who brought this case, and to all of McCarrick’s victims.”

McCarrick, the disgraced former archbishop of Washington, D.C., was facing 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.

The charges in Massachusetts were the first criminal charges that McCarrick has ever faced following several accusations of sexual abuse of minors and seminarians. 

Doyle asserted that Wednesday’s dismissal “is a reminder of the Catholic hierarchy’s cynical strategy of cover-up.”

“McCarrick’s predations were an open secret,” Doyle said. “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.” 

According to Doyle, “McCarrick might have been prosecuted years ago if even one of his brother bishops had called the police.” 

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“Instead,” she said, “yet again, a predator has evaded accountability. While the institution may have been spared the embarrassment of an ex-cardinal on trial, the disgrace of its complicity with McCarrick remains.” 

Despite the group’s frustration over the dismissal, Doyle said the case remains an important milestone. 

“McCarrick was the first U.S. cardinal and only second U.S. bishop ever to be charged with abuse,” Doyle said. “Two years ago, the world witnessed what was unimaginable 20 years ago, when the Catholic abuse crisis first broke in Boston: a former U.S. cardinal in a courtroom answering to criminal charges of child sexual abuse.”

Once a powerful figure in ecclesiastical, diplomatic, and political circles in the U.S. and around the world, McCarrick was formally removed from the clerical state by Pope Francis in 2019. 

Criminal sexual assault charges filed against McCarrick in Wisconsin in April are still pending, as are several civil lawsuits.