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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Ex-Cardinal McCarrick Deemed Ineligible for Trial on Sexual Abuse Charges

Theodore McCarrick, the most senior U.S. Catholic clergyman accused of sexual abuse in the current scandal, has been found unable to stand trial, according to a court in Massachusetts.

On Wednesday, a judge in Dedham District Court found the 93-year-old disgraced ex-cardinal to be incapacitated.

In Massachusetts, Mr. McCarrick was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery after an adolescent boy accused him of sexually assaulting him three times at a 1974 family wedding reception.

Victims’ attempts to hold abusers responsible in Catholic institutions reached a watershed moment with the accusations in Massachusetts. The massive investigation into allegations of sexual abuse, secrecy, and cover-ups inside the Catholic Church in the United States has implicated thousands of clergy members. However, successful convictions have been very uncommon since most of the claimed attacks occurred decades ago.

In 2021, Mr. McCarrick entered a not guilty plea in a Massachusetts court. A request to dismiss the charges was submitted on his behalf in February, citing an expert’s determination that he lacked the mental capacity to stand trial.

This summer, after conducting an in-person evaluation in Missouri, where Mr. McCarrick resides, an expert representing the state of Massachusetts reached the same judgement. In July, the state revealed its verdict, although it did not release the report until later.

Expert witness Kerry Nelligan, a state-employed forensic psychologist, said on Wednesday that she had evaluated Mr. McCarrick at his home over the course of two days in June and discovered substantial cognitive difficulties and “deficits of his memory and ability to retain information.”

Mr. McCarrick did not appear in person in court on Wednesday, but instead participated through video conference. His weak body seemed to be awake, nevertheless. He remained silent.

Victims’ rights activists were disheartened by the decision.

Mr. Sheehan seemed to be doubtful of the claim that Mr. McCarrick was legally incompetent. Mr. Sheehan, who is 90 years old, has admitted that he often has memory loss.

He said that many of the sexual abusers are now quite elderly, and that it has taken decades for victims to come forward.

Attorneys for Mr. McCarrick were silent when the verdict was announced.

Former archbishop of Newark and subsequently of Washington, D.C., Mr. McCarrick was previously considered a leading figure in the Catholic Church in the United States. In 2001, he was elevated to the position of cardinal, the highest ecclesiastical office next to the Pope. Mr. McCarrick was also an effective fund-raiser for the Vatican, able to win over presidents, wealthy philanthropists, and famous faces.

According to the 2021 lawsuit filed in Massachusetts, the attacks occurred during the wedding celebration for the victim’s brother at Wellesley College. The victim, who was 16 at the time, was allegedly attacked by Mr. McCarrick after the two went for a stroll outside to discuss the former’s “mischievous” behaviour and then stopped to pee. According to the complaint, the victim was assaulted a second time that evening in a coat closet next to the lobby.

The victim informed police that Mr. McCarrick, a family friend, had sexually attacked him on several occasions, starting when he was a little kid and continuing into adulthood.

Since Mr. McCarrick was not a resident of Massachusetts, the statute of limitations there did not begin counting down while he was outside of the state, allowing the charges to continue after such a long period of time.

In 2019, Mr. McCarrick was excommunicated from the church after a Vatican tribunal judged him guilty of decades of sexual abuse of children and adult seminarians.

Mr. McCarrick is also charged with criminal sexual assault in Wisconsin for allegedly assaulting the same victim in the water of Lake Geneva in 1977. Using the same method as in Massachusetts, prosecutors in Wisconsin have charged Mr. McCarrick with one count of sexual assault in the fourth degree. The accusation is considered a minor crime.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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