Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after a Mass for Pope John Paul II in 2005. Mr. McCarrick was later defrocked for sexual abuse.Credit...Stephen Crowley / The New York Times

Ex-Cardinal McCarrick Faces Sexual Assault Charges

BOSTON (MA)
New York Times

July 30, 2021

By Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham

[Photo above: Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after a Mass for Pope John Paul II in 2005. Mr. McCarrick was later defrocked for sexual abuse. Stephen Crowley / The New York Times]

Theodore McCarrick, 91, the former Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery. He is accused of abusing a 16-year-old boy in 1974.

Theodore E. McCarrick, the former Roman Catholic cardinal expelled by Pope Francis after the church found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over decades, was criminally charged on Wednesday with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy in 1974.

The criminal complaint, filed by the Wellesley police in the Dedham District Court in Massachusetts, makes Mr. McCarrick the highest ranking Catholic official in the United States to face criminal charges in the sexual abuse crisis that has plagued the church for decades.

Mr. McCarrick, 91, the former archbishop of Washington, was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person age 14 or over. He is expected to appear in court for arraignment on Sept. 3.

“It takes an enormous amount of courage for a sexual abuse victim to report having been sexually abused to investigators and proceed through the criminal process,” Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer for the complainant in civil matters, said in a statement. “Let the facts be presented, the law applied, and a fair verdict rendered.”

New York Times, July 30, 2021, Front Page
New York Times, July 30, 2021, Front Page

The charges, reported earlier by The Boston Globe, describe allegations that Mr. McCarrick sexually assaulted the boy three times at the teenager’s brother’s wedding reception at Wellesley College on June 8, 1974. The victim described the encounters to investigators in January.

Mr. McCarrick’s lawyer, Barry Coburn, said in a statement, “We look forward to addressing this case in the courtroom.”

Jeff Anderson, a lawyer who represents five people who said Mr. McCarrick abused them, said that news of the criminal charges brought a mixture of relief and anger among victims, and that he hoped for a speedy trial.

“The anger the survivors feel is so palpable,” he said. “The more they have known and the more that is unearthed, the worse it gets.”

The criminal charges are “a milestone in the prosecution of abusive bishops,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a group that tracks allegations against priests.

“For McCarrick, today’s reckoning is long overdue,” she said.

Mr. McCarrick’s expulsion from the priesthood two years ago following a Vatican trial marked the first time a cardinal, the church’s highest-ranking position after the pope, was defrocked for sexual abuse. It was also the first time an American cardinal was removed from the priesthood.

Statutes of limitation have made it difficult to prosecute allegations that Mr. McCarrick sexually assaulted people during his rise to power. But the charges against Mr. McCarrick could proceed in this case because he was not a resident of Massachusetts and because the clock on the statute of limitations stopped when he was not in the state.

The Norfolk district attorney, Michael W. Morrissey, who is representing the state in the case, declined to comment before the arraignment, said his spokesman David Traub. Meghan Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, which is involved in the case, said the investigation was ongoing.

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

Note: The New York Times published a somewhat different version of this story later in the day:

Theodore McCarrick, 91, is the highest-ranking U.S. official in the Roman Catholic Church to be charged with sexual abuse. He is accused of assaulting a 16-year-old boy in 1974.

By Elizabeth DiasRuth Graham and Liam Stack

July 29, 2021

The wedding reception took place on a June weekend in 1974. But it was this week that Theodore E. McCarrick, the former Roman Catholic cardinal expelled by Pope Francis, was criminally charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a teenage boy at the event.

The complaint, issued on Wednesday, makes Mr. McCarrick the highest-ranking Catholic official in the United States to face charges in the sexual abuse crisis that has plagued the church for decades.

Mr. McCarrick, 91, the former archbishop of Washington, was expelled from the church in 2019 after a Vatican trial found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over decades. But to the frustration of many prosecutors, he avoided punishment time and time again because statutes of limitations made cases difficult to pursue, and victims have lamented that he has largely escaped legal accountability.

Attorneys general in about 20 states, from Nebraska to Illinois to New Jersey, opened investigations into sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church following an explosive Pennsylvania grand jury report in 2018. But the widespread subpoenas and investigations produced only a handful of criminal charges. Some state officials attempted innovative lawsuit strategies that ultimately did not work.

This week’s criminal charges against Mr. McCarrick, filed in Dedham District Court in Massachusetts, represent a new moment in victims’ efforts to hold church officials accountable. The charges could proceed because of a feature of Massachusetts law: Because Mr. McCarrick was not a resident of Massachusetts, the clock on the statute of limitations there stopped when he was not in the state.

Mr. McCarrick, who now lives in Missouri, was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person age 14 or over, and is expected to appear for arraignment on Sept. 3. Each charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and the requirement to register as a sex offender.

The complaint says that the alleged assaults occurred when the boy was 16. Now in his 60s, the man, whose name is redacted in the complaint, told investigators in January he had been assaulted repeatedly by Mr. McCarrick, a family friend, beginning when he was a young boy. He said the abuse took place not only in Massachusetts, but also in New York, New Jersey and California, and continued into adulthood.

The man said that at his brother’s wedding reception at Wellesley College on June 8, 1974, Mr. McCarrick asked to take a walk with him outside to discuss his “mischievous behavior.” When he stopped to urinate, he said, Mr. McCarrick sexually assaulted him. Later, when they returned to the building where the reception was being held, Mr. McCarrick assaulted him — while praying — inside a coatroom, he said. Afterward, he said, Mr. McCarrick told him “to say three ‘our fathers’ and a Hail Mary” so he would be redeemed of his sins.

Later that day, the man said, his father told him that he should listen to Mr. McCarrick and do what he told him.

“So maybe this was what it was supposed to be,” the man told investigators. “Maybe this was supposed to happen. I don’t know. I was still a naïve young man.”

Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer for the man in civil matters, said it took enormous courage for him to come forward. “Let the facts be presented, the law applied, and a fair verdict rendered,” he said.

Mr. McCarrick’s lawyer, Barry Coburn, said in a statement, “We look forward to addressing this case in the courtroom.”

The charges were reported earlier by The Boston Globe.

Jeff Anderson, a lawyer who represents five people who said Mr. McCarrick abused them, said that news of the criminal charges brought a mixture of relief and anger among victims, and that he hoped for a speedy trial.

“The anger the survivors feel is so palpable,” he said. “The more they have known and the more that is unearthed, the worse it gets.”

Hours after the news of the criminal complaint on Thursday, a client of Mr. Anderson’s filed a civil suit against Mr. McCarrick and the Archdiocese of Newark, where Mr. McCarrick served as archbishop from 1986 to 2000. The suit alleges that Mr. McCarrick “inflicted unpermitted harmful and offensive sexual contact” on the plaintiff in the mid-1980s, when he was approximately 12 years old.

Mr. Coburn said he had no comment on the suit.

Mr. McCarrick has been the subject of several recent civil suits in New York and New Jersey, filed by men accusing him of abusing them when they were minors.

Mr. McCarrick was removed from ministry in 2018 after an investigation by the church found credible allegations that he sexually abused a 16-year-old altar boy in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan in 1971.

After a Vatican trial, Mr. McCarrick was expelled from the priesthood in 2019, marking the first time a cardinal, the church’s highest-ranking position after the pope, was defrocked for sexual abuse. It was also the first time an American cardinal was removed from the priesthood.

A Vatican report on Mr. McCarrick, released in November, stated that Pope John Paul II, who is now a saint, personally decided to elevate Mr. McCarrick even after a U.S. cardinal warned that he had been accused of sexual misconduct. Pope Benedict XVI removed Mr. McCarrick as archbishop of Washington but did not investigate him, the report said, and Pope Francis initially assumed his predecessors had appropriately addressed the issue.

Mr. McCarrick’s history of predation was well-known among some church officials, who had been warned for decades that he had been accused of sexual harassment, including the inappropriate touching of adult seminarians, according to a New York Times investigation.

Multiple reports about the cardinal’s misconduct toward seminary students were made to American bishops, the papal ambassador to the United States, and Pope Benedict XVI between 1994 and 2008. Two dioceses in New Jersey secretly paid settlements, in 2005 and 2007, to two men who had accused Mr. McCarrick of abuse.

Despite these allegations, Mr. McCarrick climbed the ranks of the Catholic Church in the United States, becoming auxiliary bishop of New York in 1977, bishop of the newly created Diocese of Metuchen in New Jersey in 1981, archbishop of Newark in 1986, and ultimately archbishop of Washington in 2001.

Maria Margiotta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Newark, said it would be “inappropriate” for the archdiocese to comment on the criminal charges against Mr. McCarrick because he is “a now-private individual who is no longer affiliated with the archdiocese.” Ms. Margiotta said she had not seen the lawsuit filed against Mr. McCarrick and the archdiocese and had no comment about it.

The Archdiocese of New York declined to comment and the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

The Norfolk district attorney, Michael W. Morrissey, who is representing the state in the Massachusetts case, declined to comment before the arraignment, said his spokesman, David Traub.

In the few instances when Mr. McCarrick has commented on the accusations against him, he has denied wrongdoing.

That has not deterred accusers and prosecutors from pressing forward.

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

Elizabeth Dias covers faith and politics from Washington. She previously covered a similar beat for Time magazine. @elizabethjdias

Ruth Graham is a national correspondent covering religion, faith and values. She previously reported on religion for Slate. @publicroad

Liam Stack is a religion correspondent on the Metro desk, covering New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He was previously a political reporter based in New York and a Middle East correspondent based in Cairo. @liamstack

A version of this article appears in print on July 30, 2021, Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. Ex-Cardinal Is Charged With Sexual Assault of Teen in 1974

https://web.archive.org/web/20210729200006/https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/29/us/cardinal-mccarrick-sexual-abuse-charge.html