The defense team’s expert, psychologist David Schretlen, related in his report some of the frustrations McCarrick’s lawyers have experienced in preparing his defense.
Schretlen refers to the former cardinal as “Dr. McCarrick,” an apparent reference to his doctoral degree in sociology. Because Pope Francis dismissed McCarrick from the clerical state in February 2019, the Church formally refers to him as “Mr. McCarrick.”
“His attorneys explained that Dr. McCarrick usually seems to understand their questions and follow discussions of legal matters. However, they noted that he often later asks questions that reflect a failure to either understand or remember important details of their discussions. This can occur both during (i.e., within minutes) and after (i.e., within hours to days) of a meeting,” Schretlen noted.
“He once asked to set up a meeting to discuss a matter that he was ‘excited’ to bring up, only to forget what it was when they met, nor had he written it down,” his report continued.
“On numerous occasions, Dr. McCarrick ostensibly asks questions to clarify previously discussed matters, but his questions clearly indicate that he has no memory of the previous discussions,” Schretlen reported. “At other times, he will email cryptic messages, such as the single word ‘effrontery,’ that he is unable to explain later.”
Schretlen concluded that McCarrick has a “severe cognitive disorder” and “everyday functional disability” consistent with dementia and most likely caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
‘My big problem’
The June evaluation, conducted by psychologist Kerry Nelligan, was based on six and a half hours of conversations with McCarrick at his residence at the Vianney Renewal Center, a Catholic facility in Dittmer, Missouri, run by the Servants of the Paraclete religious order.
Nelligan’s 28-page report, part of the court record, offers a window into McCarrick’s current health and mindset.
Given McCarrick’s advanced age and deteriorating condition, the document also provides what could wind up being the last public words McCarrick ever makes about the scandals that surround him.
Asked by Nelligan about his understanding of the possible evidence that could be used by the prosecution, McCarrick replied, “I can’t imagine there is anything because I’ve never done this.”
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Nelligan’s report notes that McCarrick “has myriad medical issues,” including hypertension, chronic liver disease, heart failure, and atherosclerotic heart disease. He relies on a pacemaker and has suffered a series of mini-strokes, she noted.
During her conversations with McCarrick, she asked him if he had difficulties with his memory.
“Yes,” he replied. “I have trouble with words. It’s annoying. I can’t come up with the words you want.”
Asked what he had eaten for breakfast the morning of their conversation, McCarrick replied: “Oatmeal with ... beans. No …. not beans. Oh, what’s the word?” When Nelligan asked if he meant raisins, he replied, “Oh, yes! Raisins!”
Another time, when she asked him to name items she was wearing or holding, McCarrick said: “You have a silver brace around your neck,” instead of using the word “necklace.” He similarly described her bracelet as a “wrist ornament.”
“Word finding is my big problem. I’m looking for a word, and I get mad because I can’t find it,” McCarrick said. “I do forget some peoples’ names, too.”