Judge rules defrocked cardinal Theodore McCarrick is not competent to stand trial; sexual assault case dismissed

Boston Globe

August 30, 2023

By Shelley Murphy

Defrocked cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the highest-ranking Roman Catholic official in the United States to face criminal charges in the clergy sexual abuse scandal, was found not competent to stand trial Wednesday in a case alleging he had sexually assaulted a 16-year-old boy in Wellesley in the 1970s.

Dedham District Judge Paul McCallum ruled that 93-year-old McCarrick was incompetent after two medical experts found he suffered from dementia, then granted the state’s motion to drop all charges.

McCarrick, who appeared remotely via Zoom, showed no emotion when a court clerk told him the case was dismissed. Dressed in a gray sweater vest over a white shirt, he sat hunched over a table in a room at his residence, an assisted living facility in Missouri for clerics accused of molesting children.

His accuser did not attend the hearing, but sent a two-page victim impact statement to the judge saying it had “taken great courage” for him to come forward to reveal what McCarrick had done to him. His allegations, he said, had led to threats of retaliation by supporters of the once-powerful cleric.

“I brought the charges in this matter in the hope of finding justice in this court,” he wrote. “Instead, McCarrick walks a free man and I am left with nothing. Nothing except the continuing fear of the twice-threatened retaliation.”

He described McCarrick as a predator who ascended to the top of the church hierarchy and believed there would be no personal cost for his actions.

“But there was a personal cost to me,” he wrote. “These proceedings were to have provided a modest level of payback.”

McCarrick’s accuser did not want to be named, according to his attorney, Mitchell Garabedian. The Boston Globe does not identify sexual abuse victims without their consent.

In a statement after the case was dismissed, Garabedian said many clergy sexual abuse victims believe that McCarrick “is and will always be the permanent personification of evil within the Catholic Church.”

McCarrick’s attorneys, Barry Cohen and William Fick, declined to comment after the hearing, but in court filings have said that he maintains his innocence.

McCarrick was charged in July 2021 with sexually assaulting the16-year-old boy during a wedding reception at Wellesley College in the 1970s. The former archbishop of Washington, D.C., pleaded not guilty to three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14 in a criminal complaint filed by Wellesley police.

The accusertold 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.

On June 8, 1974, theaccuser said he was at his brother’s wedding reception 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 molested him when they were walking around the campus.

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.

In February, McCarrick’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that he was not competent to stand trial. A professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine had examined McCarrick and concluded that dementia “renders him incapable of meaningfully assisting in his own defense,” according to the defense filing.

On Wednesday, a forensic psychologist hired by the state to assess McCarrick’s competency testified that she interviewed him at his Missouri residence over two days in June and also found that he has dementia and is not competent to stand trial.

“He couldn’t remember what we discussed from one hour to the next,” said Kerry Nelligan, adding that he has “significant cognitive deficits” that would prevent him from defending himself at trial.

After the judge ruled that McCarrick was not competent to stand trial, Norfolk Assistant District Attorney Lisa Beatty filed a motion to dismiss the case against McCarrick, saying “it is not expected that he will become competent in his lifetime.”

The accuser is among several men who 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 was able to be charged with the alleged assaults in Wellesley because he was not a Massachusetts resident and the statute of limitations paused 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. The following year, Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick after a Vatican investigation found him guilty of sex crimes against minors and adults.

In April, McCarrick was charged in Wisconsin with sexually assaulting the same victim in that state in the 1970s. That case is still pending.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, an advocacy group for victims, said in a statement Wednesday that the organization’s thoughts remain with the accuser in the case.

“Our hearts agonize for McCarrick’s victim, and regardless of today’s decision, we stand in solidarity with him and will always believe him,” SNAP said. “In our opinion, the verdict in this case has already been rendered, and the disgraced prelate and those who enabled him will eventually confront a judge who does not hear defense motions.”

Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this story.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shelley.murphy@globe.com. Follow her @shelleymurph.