The Vatican announced Saturday former Washington, D.C., Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had been found guilty by an investigative tribunal and defrocked.
Yahoo News reports that “[t]he announcement Saturday, delivered in uncharacteristically blunt language for the Vatican, meant that the 88-year-old McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., becomes the highest-ranking churchman and the first cardinal to be punished by dismissal from the clerical state, or laicization.”
McCarrick was apparently told Friday that he would be booted from the Vatican’s ranks. The tribunal originally rendered their decision on January 11, but McCarrick pursued an appeal. He did not win. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s board that reinforces fidelity to Church doctrine, found him guilty of “solicitation in the sacrament of confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.” There is no further course of appeal.
McCarrick resigned from his official position within the Church last year, after being accused of multiple incidents of sexual assault.
[A]n investigation found evidence he had molested a minor altar boy almost a half-century ago. Another man told The New York Times that he was in his 20s when McCarrick abused him in the 1980s. McCarrick was a bishop in New Jersey at the time. The Times also found that two New Jersey dioceses had secretly paid settlements to two men who had accused McCarrick of abuse.
McCarrick was further accused of other incidents, including incidents with young priests and seminarians, whom McCarrick invited on private vacations.
Although Pope Francis has approved McCarrick’s ultimate punishment, complete laicization, the Vatican is facing down a mountain of problems affiliated with the now-defrocked Cardinal, starting with his replacement, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who resigned late last year after months of denying that he had knowledge of McCarrick’s crimes, and continuing with Cardinals and bishops close to McCarrick who may have known of McCarrick’s behavior toward seminarians and young priests.
This past summer, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò penned an open letter to the Vatican, demanding to know why McCarrick had been raised to the level of “senior adviser” to Pope Francis, even though his crimes appeared to be well known among his friends and colleagues. Vigano claimed that McCarrick’s behavior was reported to then-Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis’s predecessor, and that Benedict had issued sanctions against McCarrick.
Vigano then accused Pope Francis and several of McCarrick’s close friends, including the archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Blaise Cupich, of knowingly “rehabilitating” McCarrick’s image, ignoring Pope Benedict’s sanctions, and welcoming McCarrick back into the fold of high level Vatican administration.
The Vatican has so far refused to acknowledge Vigano’s claims, despite increasing calls for an investigation into who knew what about McCarrick and when from the American laity — members of the American Catholic Church who are not members of the priesthood or engaged in religious life. Although several members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops proposed a thorough investigation and a change in rules that would require bishops and Cardinals to come under the same oversight priests now do (and have since 2002), the Vatican simply would not allow a vote on any policy changes.
A full meeting of American bishops and Cardinals in January passed without any mention of the sexual abuse crisis.
The Vatican is supposed to host a global conference on the sexual abuse crisis — which has hit Europe, South America and India, in addition to the United States — but despite making lofty claims of handling the full issue during the summer of 2018, the Vatican has recently downplayed expectations for the conference, telling media that the conference is expected to be less about “solutions” and more about “awareness.”