BOSTON (AP) — Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked after a Vatican investigation confirmed he had sexually molested adults as well as children, has been charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy during a wedding reception in the 1970s, court records show.
Court documents obtained by The Boston Globe shows that McCarrick is charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14.
McCarrick is the first cardinal in the U.S. to ever be criminally charged with a sexual crime against a minor, according to Mitchell Garabedian, a well-known lawyer for church sexual abuse victims who is representing the man alleging the abuse by McCarrick.
“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 said in an email. “Let the facts be presented, the law applied, and a fair verdict rendered.”
Barry Coburn, an attorney for McCarrick, told The Associated Press that they “look forward to addressing the case in the courtroom,” and declined further comment.
A report filed in court says the man told investigators that McCarrick was a family friend and began abusing him when he was a boy.
The man says McCarrick groped him when he was 16 in 1974 as they walked around the campus of Wellesley College, where his brother’s wedding reception was being held. The man also alleges that McCarrick led him into a room and fondled the boy before telling him to “say three Our Fathers and a Hail Mary or it was one Our Father and three Hail Marys, so God can redeem you of your sins,” according to the court documents.
McCarrick, who now lives in Missouri, has been ordered to appear in Massachusetts for his arraignment on Aug. 26.
McCarrick, 91, was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after a Vatican investigation confirmed decades of rumors that he was a sexual predator.
The case created a credibility crisis for the church since the Vatican had reports from authoritative cardinals dating to 1999 that McCarrick’s behavior was problematic, yet he became an influential cardinal, kingmaker and emissary of the Holy See’s “soft diplomacy.”
Jeff Anderson, an attorney who has represented others who say they were victimized by McCarrick, said in a statement that the defrocked cardinal’s “history of prolific sex crimes has been ignored by the highest-ranking Catholic officials for decades.”
“For too long Catholic institutions have been self-policing while making pledges and promises without action. McCarrick should be behind bars for his crimes,” Anderson said.
Of the thousands of Catholic clergymen implicated in sexual abuse in recent decades, McCarrick was distinctive in having reached the highest circles of church leadership — even as awareness of his suspect behavior spread steadily through the hierarchy.
Ordained as a priest in New York City in 1958, McCarrick rose to become archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, in 1986 and then archbishop of Washington, D.C., in 2000. He was elevated to the rank of cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.
In June 2018, McCarrick suddenly became the face of the long-festering Catholic sex abuse crisis as Pope Francis removed him from public ministry due to allegations that he abused a teenager while a priest in New York. A church panel determined that a former altar boy’s allegations that McCarrick fondled him before Christmas Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1971 and 1972 were “credible and substantiated.”
The church also acknowledged that it had made previously undisclosed financial settlements with adults who accused McCarrick of sexual misconduct decades ago. It was apparently common knowledge in the U.S. and Vatican leadership that “Uncle Ted,” as McCarrick was known, slept with seminarians, and yet he still he ascended up the church ranks.