Vatican Defrocks Theodore McCarrick Over Homosexual Abuse

US cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick arrives for a meeting on the eve of the start of a conclave on March 11, 2013 at the Vatican. Cardinals will hold a final set of meetings on Monday before they are locked away to choose a new pope to lead the Roman Catholic …
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

The Vatican announced Saturday that former-cardinal Theodore McCarrick will be laicized after finding him guilty of serial homosexual abuse.

According to a Vatican statement, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a “decree finding Theodore Edgar McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., guilty of the following delicts while a cleric: 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.”

The decree was issued on January 11 at the conclusion of a penal process, the Vatican said, imposing on him “the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.”

Having examined McCarrick’s defense, the CDF confirmed the prior decree and notified McCarrick of the decision on February 15, 2019.

Pope Francis has recognized the “definitive nature” of this decision, the Vatican statement added, meaning that no further appeals will be admitted.

As expected, the ruling was announced prior to next week’s Vatican summit on clerical sex abuse. Pope Francis has invited the heads of all the national bishops’ conferences around the world to participate in the meeting.

Last July, Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the college of cardinals following revelations of sexual impropriety and abuse spanning decades.

The first accusation of sexual abuse became public on June 20, 2018 when the Archdiocese of New York released a statement announcing “credible and substantiated” allegations of abuse by McCarrick when he was a priest of the New York archdiocese.

Two other accusations of abuse of minors later surfaced, as well as numerous charges of sexual harassment of seminarians and priests. All of the former cardinal’s alleged victims were males.

The question remains regarding when Pope Francis found out about McCarrick’s abuse and why he waited so long to act on it.

An August 25, 2018 report from a high-ranking Vatican official alleged that the pope had learned of McCarrick’s misdeeds at least as early as 2013 — since the official personally informed him — and yet lifted sanctions against McCarrick and rehabilitated him as an advisor in naming new American bishops.

When journalists asked the pope whether these allegations were true, and when indeed he had learned the facts about McCarrick, the pope neither confirmed nor denied the report, adopting instead the strategy of “no comment.”

The pope encouraged journalists to investigate the case, but so far has refused to answer their questions.

On October 7, the Vatican prefect of the Congregation of Bishops confirmed allegations that Pope Benedict XVI had curbed McCarrick’s activities due to concerns about his behavior.

“The former Cardinal,” wrote Cardinal Marc Ouellet, “had been requested not to travel or to make public appearances, in order to avoid new rumors about him.”

In a 2014 article in the Washington Post, journalist David Gibson said that McCarrick was “one of a number of senior churchmen who were more or less put out to pasture during the eight-year pontificate of Benedict XVI.”

All of this changed under Pope Francis, the article suggested.

“But now Francis is pope, and prelates like Cardinal Walter Kasper (another old friend of McCarrick’s) and McCarrick himself are back in the mix, and busier than ever,” Gibson wrote.

“Francis, who has put the Vatican back on the geopolitical stage, knows that when he needs a savvy back channel operator he can turn to McCarrick,” he wrote.

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