Rome, July 28 (IANS) Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington and prominent diplomat at the centre of a decades-old sexual abuse scandal, has resigned, the Vatican announced on Saturday.
The Vatican said that Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals on Friday evening and ordered him to “a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial”.
McCarrick, 88, was found by the church in June to be credibly accused of sexually abusing a teenager nearly 50 years ago. Since then, additional reports of sexual abuse and harassment by the cardinal, over a span of decades, were reported, according to the Washington Post.
The Pope also ordered McCarrick’s suspension from public ministry and instructed him to “remain in a house yet to be indicated to him” until the trial. He is the highest ranked US Catholic clergy member to ever be removed from ministry due to sexual abuse allegations.
The victims included one then-minor and three adults, who were young priests or seminarians when McCarrick allegedly abused them, the Post reported.
The cardinal said in June that he was “shocked” by the initial allegation and had “no recollection of the reported abuse”.
McCarrick was also accused three times of sexual misconduct with adults “decades ago” while he served as a bishop in Metuchen and Newark, New Jersey, the current bishops of those cities said. Two of those allegations resulted in settlements.
Patrick Noaker, the attorney for the former altar boy who made the accusation against McCarrick, said earlier that his client was molested twice by McCarrick, once in 1971 and once the following year.
Both alleged incidents, Noaker said, occurred at St. Patrick’s Cathedral as his client was being fitted for a cassock for Christmas Mass. At the time, McCarrick was secretary to Cardinal Terence Cooke, New York’s top churchman.
The youth was helping prepare for the service when McCarrick allegedly put his hands in the boy’s pants. Noaker said his client was again molested by McCarrick the following year during a fitting for cassocks before the big Christmas Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
There were more allegations. A Virginia man now 60 years old told the New York Times and then the Post that McCarrick, a friend of his father, abused him for nearly 20 years, starting when he was an 11-year-old boy and McCarrick urged him to show him his genitals while changing clothes after a swim party.
In recent months, the Pope has worked to address concerns that he had a blind spot when it came to child sexual abuse by members of the clergy.