September 3, 2021
By Shelley Murphy and John R. Ellement
[Photo above: Anne Barrett Doyle, Co-Director of Bishop Accountability spoke on the Catholic abuse outside at Dedham District Court. David L. Ryan / Globe Staff]
Tears welled in the eyes of the man who alleges he was sexually abused as a child by Theodore McCarrick as he watched the defrocked cardinal become the highest ranking Roman Catholic priest to face criminal charges in Dedham District Court Friday.
The man, who has asked not to be publicly identified, sat in the front row of the courtroom surrounded by family as the now 91-year-old McCarrick used a walker to move from a courtroom bench to stand at the defendant’s bar and hear the clerk read off the charges he faces.
“With offenses dating June 8 of 1974, in the town of Wellesley, you are charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14,” the court clerk told him, reading aloud from court papers.
McCarrick, whose attorneys said in court papers he was “extremely frightened” to appear in court, did not speak. Not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf to all charges. He was released on $5,000 cash bail, ordered to stay away from the victim, not have contact with anyone under the age of 18, and surrender his passport once an alternative official ID card was obtained.
The victim left the courthouse without speaking with reporters. His attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, said outside the courthouse that he considered Friday a historic day given the historic practice of abusive priests being protected by political figures and the Catholic Church from facing criminal charges.
“Today’s arraignment provides hope for clergy abuse victims and shows that the truth will be told,” he said. “My client is riding an emotional roller coaster today and is ready to participate in the trial to the end. Justice will prevail and children will be kept safe.”
McCarrick ignored questions shouted at him as he left the courthouse and made his way past a dozen victims of clergy abuse and their supporters. His lawyer, Daniel Marx, also did not comment before McCarrick, who is living in Missouri, was driven away from the courthouse.
One of those on hand Friday was Skip Shea, 61, of Uxbridge, a clergy abuse survivor. Shea said he was not one of McCarrick’s alleged victims but felt the need to witness something he was skeptical he would ever see — a high level priest being prosecuted for crimes against children.
“Today for me represents a little bit of hope,’’ Shea said, adding it suggests a “cultural shift” among law enforcement who are now willing to prosecute clergy. “I came to witness this because this is a monumental moment for us in the United States.”
McCarrick was defrocked by the Vatican in 2019. The address listed for McCarrick in the court filings is the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Mo. The Missouri leader for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests told the Globe the center is one of several church-run centers in the state used to house clerics accused of molesting children.
In court, Norfolk Assistant District Attorney Sarah Lelle summarized McCarrick’s alleged behavior towards the victim and his family. “The defendant immersed himself into the fabric of the victim’s family,” she said. “He used his status as a priest to access and prey upon this victim.”
The alleged victim told investigators that McCarrick was a family friend who began molesting him when he was a boy. He said McCarrick often went on trips with his family and had sexually abused him in New Jersey, New York, California, and Massachusetts, according to a report by Wellesley police that was filed in court with the complaint.
On June 8, 1974, the alleged victim, then 16, said he was at his brother’s wedding reception at Wellesley College when McCarrick told him his father wanted the two of them to “have a talk” because the teenager was being mischievous at home and not attending church, according to the police report. He said McCarrick groped his genitals when they were walking around the campus. McCarrick had repeatedly molested him in the past, he said.
When they returned to the reception, McCarrick led him into a small room, closed the blinds, and told him “that he needed to go to confession.” He then fondled his genitals while “saying prayers to make me feel holy,” according to the report.
Before leaving the room, McCarrick told him to “say three Our Fathers and a Hail Mary or it was one Our Father and three Hail Marys, so God can redeem you of your sins,” the report stated.
During interviews with police, the man recounted later incidents when McCarrick sexually abused him in Arlington and at hotels in Newton, according to the report. He also provided four photographs of postcards he had received from McCarrick when he was younger, and a photo of McCarrick that predated the wedding reception in Wellesley.
Several men have filed civil lawsuits in New York and New Jersey against McCarrick, alleging that he sexually abused them in those states when they were children between the 1970s and the 1990s. The statute of limitations has expired in those cases, preventing authorities from pursuing criminal charges.
But McCarrick can be charged with the alleged assaults in Wellesley because he was not a Massachusetts resident and the statute of limitations stopped running when he left the state. At the time of the alleged assault, McCarrick was a monsignor and secretary to Cardinal Terence Cooke and lived in the rectory attached to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
In 2018, the Vatican removed McCarrick from public ministry, citing credible allegations that he sexually abused an altar boy in the 1970s in New York. At the time, McCarrick issued a statement saying, “While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.”
The following year, Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick after a Vatican investigation found him guilty of sex crimes against minors and adults.
McCarrick’s next court date is Oct. 28.