Former Cardinal McCarrick’s lawyers want child abuse case against him dismissed

DEDHAM (MA) [Woodland Park NJ]

February 27, 2023

By Deena Yellin

Attorneys representing former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick are seeking the dismissal of the case of child abuse against him, saying the 92-year-old isn’t competent to face trial because he suffers from dementia.

McCarrick, who was the archbishop of Newark from 1986 to 2000 and the bishop of Metuchen earlier in the 1980s, has pleaded not guilty in the 2021 Massachusetts case against him that alleges he abused a teenage boy at a 1974 wedding at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

McCarrick is the only Catholic cardinal in the United States ever to face child sex abuse charges.

His lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the criminal case, asserting that although McCarrick remains “intelligent and articulate,” his dementia and the resulting decline in his memory make him incapable of “assisting in his defense,” they wrote in their motion.

They cited an examination by a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who determined McCarrick has dementia, “likely due to Alzheimer’s disease.”

Mitch Garabedian, the attorney representing the victim, said, “Experience has taught me that the closer in time to trial, the more an accused priest becomes incompetent.”

Garabedian added that his client, who has not been publicly named, “takes pride in coming forward and confronting one of the most historically powerful and immoral cardinals in the Catholic Church. My client’s strength is boundless and keeps children safe.”

Barry Coburn, McCarrick’s attorney, declined to comment to and The Record on Monday about the case.

Prosecutors said they plan to hire their own expert to conduct an evaluation to determine the prelate’s competency, according to media reports.

According to the alleged victim’s lawsuit, McCarrick was a family friend who assaulted him when he was a teen.

McCarrick allegedly abused the teenager at the boy’s brother’s wedding. McCarrick, a priest stationed in New York at the time, was a friend of the family. He groped the boy after getting him alone during a walk on the campus, telling him, “Your dad wants you to come out with me and have a talk” because the boy hadn’t been attending church.

The accuser told police that the priest then took him to a coat room and told him he “needed to go to confession.” After sexually abusing him again, according to the complaint, McCarrick told the boy to recite “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” prayers so he could be redeemed for his sins.

McCarrick was charged with assault and battery on a person who was 14 years old or older, all related to incidents at the wedding in June 1974. The accuser was 16 at the time and was later abused at other locations in Massachusetts and in other states, including New Jersey.

McCarrick pleaded not guilty to the charges.

McCarrick was removed from ministry in 2018 when the church deemed an allegation of child sexual abuse against him to be credible. He was defrocked a year later amid accusations that he abused children and adult seminary students.

McCarrick was ordained in 1958 and rose up the ranks of the church despite the knowledge that he slept with seminarians.

Until recently, he was living in a treatment center in Missouri for troubled priests and clergy who committed sexual abuse.

In 2020, the Vatican released an explosive report detailing how McCarrick rose to the heights of the church, despite the fact that church leaders had received reports that he had abused children as well as adult seminarians over the span of many years.

While he was in New Jersey, he brought seminarians to a Jersey Shore beach house, where he was known for sexually harassing seminarians. The beach house was owned by the diocese.

Two seminary professors told The Record and that they raised an alarm to superiors about McCarrick in the late 1980s, after seminarians complained about having to take trips to the beach house with him. And The New York Times has reported that a former seminary student went to Metuchen church officials in 1994 to allege that he had been abused by McCarrick.

“Everyone knew about him from the early days,” said Robert Hoatson, a former priest in the Archdiocese of Newark who is now an advocate for clergy abuse survivors in New Jersey. “He could have been stopped by bishops and cardinals who knew about his history.”

“I hope he is found competent to stand trial,” Hoatson said, “because it will help his victims gain a degree of justice and closure.”