A former Catholic cardinal who was kicked out of the priesthood in 2019 is now facing charges for allegedly molesting a 16-year-old boy after a wedding in the 1970s.
On Wednesday, Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, DC, was charged in Massachusetts with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14 years old, court records show. The charges stem from one June day in 1974, when McCarrick showed up at a wedding reception at Wellesley College, according to a criminal complaint filed in court and obtained by VICE News.
McCarrick was a family friend of the alleged victim, whose name was withheld in the complaint. The victim, who met with law enforcement over Zoom in January, said that McCarrick would go on trips with his family and perform holy rites for them at funerals, weddings, and baptisms. McCarrick was so close to the family that it felt like he’d been adopted into it.
McCarrick allegedly started sexually abusing the victim when he was a “young boy,” according to the complaint, in no less than four states.
On June 8, 1974, when the victim was 16, his brother got married. At the reception, McCarrick told the victim that his father wanted McCarrick to talk to the victim because he was “being mischievous at home and not attending church,” the complaint alleges.
As they walked around the Wellesley campus, McCarrick touched the teenager’s genitals, according to the complaint.
Afterward, McCarrick allegedly took the victim into a small room, where he told the victim that he “needed to go to confession.” McCarrick then fondled and kissed the victim’s penis, “saying prayers to make me feel holy,” according to the complaint.
McCarrick then allegedly told the victim to pull up his pants and directed him to say prayers “so God can redeem you of your sins.”
The abuse by McCarrick continued after this incident, the victim told law enforcement, including after the victim had become an adult.
Despite the avalanche of sex abuse accusations against Catholic priests, the charges make McCarrick the first cardinal to be charged with a sex crime against a minor, according to Mitchell Garabedian, the victim’s attorney. The case is moving forward thanks to a technicality: At the time of the alleged assaults, McCarrick was not a resident of Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reported. The statute of limitations paused when he left the state.
“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,” Garabedian told CNN.
“We look forward to addressing this case in the courtroom,” McCarrick’s attorney, Barry Coburn, told VICE News. McCarrick has previously denied wrongdoing in regards to past allegations.
McCarrick was defrocked, or laicized, in 2019, after the Vatican found him guilty of soliciting sex during confession as well as committing “sins” with both minors and adults; the Vatican noted that there was “the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.” But some members of the Catholic hierarchy reportedly knew about the allegations against McCarrick for years before they came to light, as the New York Times reported in 2018 that American bishops received multiple complaints about McCarrick’s behavior with adult seminarians.
He’s believed to be the first cardinal to be laicized over sex abuse allegations.