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Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of U.S. Cardinal Accused of Serial Abuse

In this Wednesday, March 4, 2015, file photo, Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick speaks during a memorial service in South Bend, Ind. Pope Francis has accepted U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick's offer to resign from the College of Cardinals following allegations of sexual abuse, including one involving an 11-year-old boy, and ordered …
Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP, Pool, File

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Washington, DC, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick from the college of cardinals after a series of public accusations of sexual impropriety and abuse spanning decades.

“Yesterday evening the Holy Father received the letter in which Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington (U.S.A.), presented his resignation as a member of the College of Cardinals,” reads a statement posted on the Vatican website Saturday.

The statement concludes:

Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the cardinalate and has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.

The gruesome story of alleged sexual abuse became public on June 20 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 45 years ago.

The statement states the Vatican had instructed Cardinal McCarrick that he is to no longer exercise his priestly ministry publicly.

At the time, Cardinal McCarrick maintained his innocence in a curiously worded statement but said he accepted the Vatican’s decision. While saying he had “no recollection” of the abuse of which he was accused, he did not explicitly say the accusations were untrue.

“While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence,” his statement says, “I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.”

After the news became public, a series of other alleged victims have come forward accusing the cardinal of homosexual abuse.

A number of the alleged victims have claimed that as archbishop of Newark, McCarrick would invite groups of seminarians and young priests to “weekend getaways” at his beach house, where he would reportedly “sexually harass and assault seminarians and young priests.”

On July 19, the New York Times posted a photograph taken in the 1970s of then-Father McCarrick and a boy identified as James. The two are in bathing suits, and the priest has his arm around the young man’s waist. The accompanying article relates a series of accusations of homosexual abuse by McCarrick, whom his young victims would refer to as “Uncle Ted.”

One priest who said that he received unwanted touching and harassment from the archbishop, Father Desmond Rossi, has asked for a “total inquiry” to discover “who knew what” about Archbishop McCarrick and to discover why measures were not taken to protect seminarians from harassment.

“I hope that this gets cleaned up,” Father Rossi said. “I hope we’re starting now to be honest.”

One investigative journalist who has posted a series of articles on the McCarrick story, Rod Dreher, has urged that a full inquiry be undertaken not only to determine who knew what and when, but also to uncover the identity of priests groomed for promotion by McCarrick—who were at times his sexual partners—and are now serving as bishops.

Professor Janet Smith, a moral theologian who teaches at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said it is time for the church to establish a clear path for “reporting immoral behavior” and for “eradicating the homosexual network in many dioceses and reportedly in the Curia itself.”

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