NEW YORK (NY) and DUBLIN (IRELAND)
September 30, 2019
On February 13, 2019, Theodore E. McCarrick became the first bishop in modern times to be laicized (defrocked) from the Roman Catholic Church after Vatican trial launched in 2018. McCarrick, 88 at the time, was dismissed from the clergy after being found guilty of decades of sexual abuse of minors and adult seminarians.
This was an especially significant moment because of McCarrick’s status within the church. He had been a key fundraiser, international representative for the Vatican in delicate political situations, presided over high profile funerals including those of Senator Ted Kennedy, journalist Tim Russert, and the Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden. He had also been a public-facing figure, even appearing on Meet the Press to discuss the child abuse scandal within the church in 2004.
What are McCarrick’s crimes?
McCarrick was initially removed from public ministry by the Holy See on June 20, 2018, following an investigation into claims that he had sexually abused a 16-year-old altar boy 47 years ago while serving as a priest in New York. A review board of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York found the allegation that he had abused the altar boy on two occasions, once in 1971 and once in 1972, “reliable and credible.”
In response, McCarrick claimed to be innocent and have “no recollection” of the events described. However, after the first public accusation came to light, numerous other allegations emerged. Eventually, he was accused of sexually abusing three men when they were minors. One, James Grien, who had been the first baby McCarrick baptized after becoming a priest, said he began abusing him when he was 11.
And, it turned out, there had been multiple complaints brought against him over the years by adult seminarians, of which the Catholic Church had been aware. The first documented complaint against McCarrick from an adult was made in 1994, when a priest wrote a letter to the Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, where McCarrick had been Bishop from 1981-1986, accusing McCarrick of sexually and emotionally abusing him and his fellow seminarians. According to a New York Times report, the letter also stated that the abuse had led the priest to touch two teenage boys inappropriately. The church’s response at the time was to send him to therapy and move him to another diocese.
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