Theodore E. McCarrick, a former Roman Catholic cardinal who was removed from his position in 2019 by Pope Francis, was charged with sexual abuse in the fourth degree in the state of Wisconsin. It was the man’s second time being accused of criminal activity; at one time, he was considered to be one of the most prominent clergy in the American Catholic Church.
In the massive sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church, Mr. McCarrick, who is now 92 years old, is the first and only cardinal to be criminally prosecuted in connection with the crisis. Thousands of victims and perpetrators of abuse have been discovered in parishes all throughout the country, and allegations dating back decades are continually being uncovered in investigations that are currently underway.
As a direct consequence of this, some dioceses have been forced to declare bankruptcy. However, very few criminal charges have been brought as a consequence, mostly due to the fact that the statute of limitations has passed, while laws in certain states are being amended to make it possible for civil suits to continue.
The complaint that has led to this latest indictment against Mr. McCarrick dates all the way back to 1977. At the time, Mr. McCarrick and the victim, who was 19 at the time, were both guests at a residence on Geneva Lake in southern Wisconsin. According to the criminal complaint, Mr. McCarrick attacked the victim. According to the prosecution, the victim was swimming off a pier when Mr. McCarrick and another adult male entered the water and inappropriately fondled his genitals without obtaining his permission.
The victim, who is not identified in the complaint, asserts that Mr. McCarrick sexually attacked him on multiple additional times and in other states, first exposing himself to the victim when he was 11 years old. This allegation is made in the lawsuit. The alleged victim, who is now in his sixties, asserts that Mr. McCarrick would take him “to a special event or lavish party and then sexually assault” him. According to the victim, there was one occasion when many adult males had sex with him.
Mr. McCarrick entered a not guilty plea in 2021 about the three charges of indecent assault and battery on a person age 14 or older that were brought against him in connection with this case. Because their client suffered from dementia, his legal team argued in February that he had the mental capacity to stand trial and should thus have the case against him thrown out.
Only a small number of criminal charges have been brought as a result of the many subpoenas and investigations that have been conducted by attorneys general offices in the twenty years after the Catholic Church abuse issue first came to public attention as a result of an article that was published in The Boston Globe. Due to the fact that Mr. McCarrick was not a resident of Massachusetts at the time of the alleged abuse that occurred there, the case in Massachusetts was permitted to go forward. When he left the state, the clock on the statute of limitations paused, which means that it did not run out as quickly as it would have if he had remained a resident there.
Mr. McCarrick was formerly considered to be one of the most influential clergy in the Catholic Church in the United States. He was born and consecrated in New York, and after working his way up through the ranks, he eventually became an auxiliary bishop of New York in 1977, the same year that the Wisconsin case was decided. In 2001, he was given the position of archbishop of Washington, and during his career he was a very successful fund-raiser for the Vatican. He was known for rubbing elbows with presidents and celebrities.
In 2018, Mr. McCarrick was dismissed from ministry after it was determined by an inquiry conducted by the church that he had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old altar boy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan in 1971. The incident occurred within the time period in question. In 2019, Mr. McCarrick was excommunicated from the clergy after a trial that took place at the Vatican.
However, several church authorities had been informed about his predatory behaviour for decades before it was finally brought to light. An investigation that was conducted by the New York Times in 2018 found that settlements had been paid to men who had filed complaints against Mr. McCarrick while he served as a bishop in the state of New Jersey in the 1980s. Several times, leaders were cautioned about the allegations of sexual harassment, which included the unwanted groping of adult seminarians.
Josh Kaul, the Attorney General of Wisconsin, issued a statement in which he thanked the courageous victims who had come forward with their tales. He also encouraged additional victims to share their experiences by saying, “Thank you to the brave survivors who have made reports.”