Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been defrocked. CNN reports that the Vatican has found McCarrick, 88, guilty of sexually abusing minors. As the former head of the Archdiocese in Washington, McCarrick was once a very powerful figure in the U.S. Catholic Church. The verdict now makes him the most senior Catholic clergyman to be removed from the priesthood because of sexual abuse charges.
According to CNN, McCarrick’s punishment is “res iudicata,” which means that he cannot appeal it. He has been living a secluded life of “prayer and penance” in a friary in Kansas as commanded by Pope Francis. Now that he is no longer a priest, it means the Catholic Church is no longer responsible for his housing.
The Church has been grappling with sexual abuse charges against priests for several years. Pope Francis and papal fathers before him have been criticized for the way they have chosen to tackle the problem. As CNN reports, last year, a letter warning the Vatican about McCarrick’s misconduct towards seminarians surfaced in the press. It was written in the year 2000 when the now-deceased Pope John Paul II led the Catholic Church.
Given the recent verdict against McCarrick and an upcoming summit of Catholic bishops on sexual abuse, it looks like the Vatican is taking a more direct approach.
“The Holy See’s announcement regarding Theodore McCarrick is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated,” said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. “No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church,” DiNardo explained.
Last year, a former altar boy came forward with claims that McCarrick abused him on two occasions between 1971 and 1972. His story triggered a flood of subsequent allegations, the Crux reports. James Grein, whose parents were a close friend of McCarrick’s, has also accused the former Cardinal of abuse. Grein alleges that his abuse by McCarrick began when he was just 11 years old.
According to The Crux, Theodore McCarrick has also been accused of sexual misconduct against adults as well. His former archdiocese in Washington has issued a statement, expressing hope that the verdict against him will help his victims to heal.
“Our hope and prayer is that this decision serves to help the healing process for survivors of abuse, as well as those who have experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done,” the statement read.