[To see the complete list of accused bishops, click here.]
Auxiliary bishop of New York archdiocese 1977-1981; bishop of Metuchen NJ 1982-1986; archbishop of Newark NJ 1986-2000; elevated to cardinal 2001; archbishop of Washington D.C. 2001-2006. Retired 2006, age 75. Laicized 2/13/2019.
McCarrick was stripped of his clerical status on 2/13/2019, becoming the first cardinal to be laicized for sex crimes. As of 2/7/2023, McCarrick had been publicly accused of sexually abusing an estimated 14 minors in New York and New Jersey [see list below] and of sexually abusing and/or harassing at least eight seminarians, priests and other vulnerable adults.
Substantive allegations against McCarrick were public on the internet for more than a decade before the mainstream press began reporting them in 2018. In 2005, conservative Catholic blogger Matt Abbott wrote about McCarrick’s alleged abuses of seminarians and priests. In 2008, scholar Richard Sipe published an open letter to Pope Benedict, saying he knew of “at least four priests who have had sexual encounters with Cardinal McCarrick.” In 2010, in an essay entitled the Cardinal McCarrick Syndrome, Sipe published excerpts from files of a church settlement with a former priest who was sexually abused by McCarrick.
The mainstream press began reporting on McCarrick’s alleged offenses on 6/20/2018, when Cardinal Dolan announced that the New York archdiocesan review board had found a child sexual abuse allegation against McCarrick to be “credible and substantiated” and that McCarrick had been ordered to cease public ministry. It was the first public allegation that McCarrick had assaulted a child. In a statement on the Washington DC archdiocesan website, McCarrick denied the abuse: “I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence.” The victim was a 16-year-old student at NYC’s Cathedral Prep Seminary in late 1971, when then-Monsignor McCarrick allegedly sexually assaulted him in the sacristy of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A year later, in late 1972, the boy was attacked by McCarrick a second time in one of the cathedral’s bathrooms. In separate statements released simultaneously with Dolan’s, Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen NJ and Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Newark NJ admitted that the Metuchen and Newark dioceses had “received three allegations of [McCarrick’s] sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements.”
On 7/15/2018, the New York Times ran a story about the two adult victims granted church settlements: Robert Ciolek, sexually harassed as a young seminarian in the 1980s by then-Metuchen bishop McCarrick; and a second man, unnamed, who was sexually abused as a seminarian beginning in 1987, when McCarrick was archbishop of Newark. Ciolek received an $80,000 settlement in 2005, and the second priest settled for $100,000 in 2007. The third adult victim referenced in the NJ bishops’ statements, the one who did not receive a settlement, told his story in late July 2018 to the Washington Post. Rev. Lauro C. Sedlmayer said he was assaulted by McCarrick beginning in 1991, a few years after Sedlmayer arrived from Brazil as a young priest. Sedlmayer unsuccessfully sued the Newark and Metuchen dioceses in 2011 and was counter-sued by Metuchen bishop Bootkoski in 2012. (He later testified in McCarrick’s canonical trial and allowed himself to be named in a follow-up Washington Post story.)
On 7/19/2018, the New York Times broke the harrowing story of a second child victim, later identified as James Grein. Grein described a 20-year sexually abusive relationship with McCarrick that began in 1969, when Grein was 11 years old. On 7/28/2018, the Vatican announced that the Pope had accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals and ordered him to live a life of prayer and penance while a canonical investigation proceeded. In August 2018, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò released his “testimony” alleging that a network in the hierarchy, including Pope Francis, had long-standing knowledge of McCarrick’s abuse of seminarians but took no action. According to Viganò, Francis knew McCarrick was a predator but willfully ignored sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on McCarrick in 2009 or 2010. On 10/6/2018, the Pope announced the launch of a “thorough study” of the church’s handling of McCarrick “to ascertain all the relevant facts.” The following day, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, published an open letter to Viganò, defending Pope Francis and stating that according to Vatican files, the restrictions applied by Benedict against McCarrick were advisory only, not sanctions with “an obligatory mandate … carrying canonical penalties.” On 12/27/2018, James Grein testified in the Vatican investigation that McCarrick had abused him as a boy during confessions.
On 1/11/2019, the CDF Congresso issued a laicization decree, finding McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.” McCarrick appealed, but the Ordinary Session of the CDF confirmed the decree on 2/13/2019. Sentence was rendered res iudicata – it cannot be appealed.
In April 2019, Camille Biros, co-administrator of the New York archdiocese’s victim compensation program, told the New Yorker that they had received seven claims of child sexual abuse against McCarrick. In May 2019, McCarrick’s former aide published excerpts from the ex-cardinal’s personal correspondence indicating that in 2008, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, then prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, imposed restrictions on McCarrick: no public appearances without Re’s permission and no travel to Rome. Within a year, McCarrick was ignoring the restrictions.
In a lawsuit filed in New York in August 2019, McCarrick victim Grein said that he had reported his abuse in person to Pope John Paul II in 1988. McCarrick denied abusing Grein in the confessional in an interview reported September 2019 in Slate. That denial spurred a public essay by another victim in October 2019 revealing a group of accusers calling themselves “The Nathans.”
In December 2019, two lawsuits filed in New Jersey alleged abuses by McCarrick – one by James Grein, accusing the Metuchen diocese and Newark archdiocese of gross negligence, and another by John Bellocchio, citing sexual assault at age 14 in 1995 or 1996 when then-Newark archbishop McCarrick visited his parish, St. Francis of Assisi in Hackensack. [See Bellocchio’s filed complaint.] A Washington Post exposé on 12/26/2019 revealed that McCarrick had doled out more than $600,000 in cash gifts to fellow clerics, including two popes who allegedly knew of his sexual offenses: John Paul II received $90,000 and Benedict XVI received $291,000.
A 7/15/2020 piece in the New York Times revealed that five men, all related, had testified in the Vatican inquiry in New York in late December 2018. The five had met McCarrick at their Bronx parish in 1970, when they were children and he was a young monsignor in the New York archdiocese. McCarrick molested all five of them. (It’s evident that these were “The Nathans,” the related victims whose experience was described more generally in the October 2019 essay by “Nathan Doe.”)
Another man sexually abused as a child by McCarrick filed suit on 7/21/2020 in New Jersey Superior Court. The suit accused McCarrick, then bishop of Metuchen, of participating in a sex ring with five other NJ clerics. According to the complaint, the plaintiff was first sexually abused in 1978 by a Newark NJ priest who introduced him to Brother Andrew Hewitt CFC, then principal of Essex Catholic High School. Hewitt also sexually abused the boy and brought him to McCarrick’s beach house, where he was molested by McCarrick and three other clerics. The abuses by McCarrick occurred 1982-1983, when the victim was ages 14-16.
A news report in August 2020 revealed that in the late 1980s, a priest of the Paterson NJ diocese told his bishop, Frank Rodimer, that seminarians had complained to him of McCarrick. According to the priest, Rodimer told him he had relayed the allegations to the papal nuncio. The report also detailed McCarrick’s enabling of abusive priests while he was Newark archbishop.
In a lawsuit filed in New Jersey on 8/11/2020, another victim accused McCarrick of child sexual abuse. Gregory Downs said that McCarrick sexually assaulted him in St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Metuchen in 1982 or 1983, when he was age 15 or 16. Downs, an altar boy, was preparing to serve Mass; McCarrick was bishop of Metuchen.
On 11/10/2020, the Vatican published a 449-page report into its investigation of the church’s “decision-making processes” related to McCarrick “from 1930 to 2017.”
On 11/16/2020, a NJ.com report revealed a federal lawsuit filed by a victim in late September 2020. He said that from 1985 to 1990, beginning at age 12, he was raped and sexually abused by McCarrick on dozens of occasions. The abuse began when McCarrick was bishop of Metuchen and continued after he became archbishop of Newark.
On 7/28/2021, police in Wellesley MA filed a criminal complaint against McCarrick in district court, charging him with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14. The alleged assaults occurred in June 1974, when then-Msgr. McCarrick and the 16-year-old victim were attending a wedding at Wellesley College. McCarrick becomes the first U.S. cardinal and only the second U.S. bishop to be charged with child sexual abuse. (Bishop Thomas Dupre of Springfield MA was the first; however, the local prosecutor dropped the case just a few days after indicting Dupre, citing the statute of limitations.)
Also in late July 2021, a lawsuit filed in New Jersey accused McCarrick of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy from Notre Dame parish in North Caldwell NJ. The alleged abuse occurred in 1986, apparently soon after McCarrick’s July 1986 installation as Newark archbishop.
On 8/4/2021, a lawsuit filed in New York accused McCarrick of sexually abusing a boy, ages 13-16, from 1975 to 1978. During the time of the alleged abuse, McCarrick was a priest and then auxiliary bishop in the New York archdiocese. The boy was a parishioner at St. Augustine church in Larchmont NY.
In September 2021, McCarrick was accused in three additional lawsuits, all by victims who were young adults at the time of the abuse: JA Doe, a former employee of the Newark archdiocese, alleged that McCarrick had subjected him to “unpermitted sexual contact” at the archdiocesan cathedral in approximately 1991 [see complaint]; Father Lauro Sedlmayer, the Brazilian priest who had unsuccessfully sued the Metuchen and Newark dioceses in 2011, accused church leaders of cover-up and cited multiple sexual assaults by McCarrick at the prelate’s beach house starting in 1991 [see complaint]; and a New York man alleged sexual abuses by McCarrick from 1982 to 1985, when the plaintiff was ages 19 to 22 [see complaint].
In November 2021, the final month that previously expired claims could be filed under NJ’s Child Victims Act, McCarrick was named in two additional suits. Former priest Michael Reading cited unpermitted sexual contact by McCarrick in 1986, around the time that McCarrick ordained him. [See Reading’s complaint here.] Another victim, Christopher Allen, alleged sexual abuse by McCarrick 1982-86, starting when he was a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Metuchen. The abuse occurred roughly 150 times.
In January 2023, McCarrick’s attorneys filed a motion for continuance in the Massachusetts criminal case stating that the former cardinal was in mental decline and no longer legally competent to stand trial.
On April 16, 2023, the attorney general of Wisconsin and the district attorney of Walworth County WI announced that they were charging ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick with one count of fourth-degree sexual assault for an incident that occurred in April 1977. The victim, who was 19 at the time, alleges that McCarrick fondled his genitals while they were staying at a Lake Geneva WI residence. The victim is reportedly James Grein, whose sexual abuse by McCarrick allegedly began when he was 11. Grein is the same person whose allegations resulted in McCarrick being criminally charged in Massachusetts in 2021.
On August 30, 2023, a Massachusetts judge dropped the state’s criminal child sexual abuse case against McCarrick after experts for both the defense and prosecution agreed that the former cardinal was incompetent to stand trial.
Re-cap: Tally of child sexual abuse allegations against McCarrick
In addition to sexually abusing numerous seminarians, McCarrick faces 14 allegations of child sexual abuse. Below is a list of those allegations, in the order that they became public. All of these allegations are referenced in the summary above.
— Minor 1 accused McCarrick of sexual assaulting him at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1971 and 1972, when the boy was ages 16 and 17. This victim’s report to the NY archdiocese in 2017 led to the archdiocese’s 6/20/2018 announcement, which unleashed the ongoing cascade of disclosures of the ex-cardinal’s alleged crimes:
— Minor 2 is James Grein, whose alleged abuse by McCarrick began in 1969, when Grein was 11 years old;
— Minor 3 is John Bellocchio, whose December 2019 lawsuit accuses McCarrick of sexually abusing him at age 14, in 1995 or 1996, when McCarrick was Newark archbishop;
— Minors 4-8 are the five male relatives who testified in the Vatican’s investigation of McCarrick. In the spring of 2019, they also submitted claims to the NY archdiocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, a scheme that was limited to those abused as minors;
— Minor 9 is the victim who filed suit on 7/21/2020 in New Jersey, alleging that McCarrick and several other clerics sexually abused him at the then-bishop’s beach house in the early 1980s, when the victim was ages 14-16;
— Minor 10 is Gregory Downs, whose 8/11/2020 lawsuit alleged that he was sexually abused by McCarrick in 1982 or 1983, when Downs was age 15 or 16;
— Minor 11 filed a federal lawsuit in late September 2020, alleging dozens of acts of rape and sexual abuse by McCarrick from 1985 to 1990, beginning when the victim was 12.
— Minor 12 accused McCarrick in a lawsuit filed in New Jersey last week of July 2021. McCarrick allegedly abused the 12-year-old boy from North Caldwell NJ soon after his July 1986 installation as Newark archbishop.
— Minor 13 accused McCarrick in a lawsuit filed in New York on 8/4/2021. It alleges that McCarrick sexually abused the boy, then ages 13 to 16, from 1975 to 1978, while McCarrick was a priest and then auxiliary bishop of the NY archdiocese.
— Minor 14 is Christopher Allen, who filed a lawsuit in November 2021. Allen was a 10-year-old altar boy in 1982 at the Metuchen cathedral when McCarrick allegedly began sexually abusing him.
[To see the complete list of accused bishops, click here.]