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Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick faces criminal charges

Jeffrey Bruno

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick

John Burger - published on 07/30/21 - updated on 07/31/21

Massachusetts law's particular handling of statute of limitations leads to first sexual assault charge against one-time Archbishop of Washington.

Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, has been criminally charged for sexual assault in a case dating back almost five decades, the Boston Globe reported.

McCarrick was charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy several times, including at a wedding reception in Massachusetts on June 8, 1974. At the time, he was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and secretary to Cardinal Terrence Cooke of New York. He was a friend of the family of the boy. 

The charges — three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person age 14 or over — were filed in Dedham District Court in Massachusetts.

McCarrick has avoided charges in other cases because statutes of limitations made cases difficult to pursue. But under Massachusetts law, if an accused person is not a state resident, the clock stops on the statute of limitations once he is not in the state.

The 91-year-old former cardinal is reportedly now living at a Missouri treatment center for Catholic clergy with sexual or other disorders. He has been in near seclusion for several years, but he is expected to appear in court for arraignment on September 3.

The man who was allegedly assaulted is now in his 60s. According to media reports, he told investigators in January he had been assaulted repeatedly by McCarrick, beginning when he was a young boy. He said the abuse took place not only in Massachusetts, but also in New York, New Jersey and California, and continued into adulthood.

Each charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and the requirement to register as a sex offender.

For years, rumors had swirled about McCarrick’s practice of inviting seminarians to share his bed at a New Jersey beach house, while he was Archbishop of Newark. In 2017, the Archdiocese of New York, where he was ordained a priest in 1958, received the first accusation against McCarrick of sexual abuse of a minor. After an investigation, the accusation was found credible in 2018, which led the Vatican to permanently bar McCarrick from public ministry. 

Pope Francis dismissed McCarrick from the clerical state in 2019, after the Vatican found him 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.”

This week, McCarrick’s lawyer, Barry Coburn, said in a statement, “We look forward to addressing this case in the courtroom.”

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