The Vatican has finally moved to defrock former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick over allegations of sexual abuse going back decades, according to the Associated Press.
The Catholic Church’s authority charged the former American Church official with sexually abusing both adults and children.
McCarrick is the highest-ranking Church official to ever be “laicized” — or suffer the loss of clerical status. He is also the first cardinal to be defrocked over the decades-old sex crime scandal that has beset the church.
According to the Associated Press:
The Vatican’s press office said the Holy See’s doctrinal watchdog office, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, found McCarrick on Jan. 11 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.” The commandment forbids adultery
Indeed, the impact of this long-term, slow-rolling scandal cannot be overstated in how badly it has harmed the reputation of the Catholic Church.
The punishment for the once-powerful prelate, who had served as the archbishop of Washington, spent years in New Jersey dioceses and had been an influential fundraiser for the church, was announced five days before Francis leads an extraordinary gathering of bishops from around the world to help the church grapple with the crisis of sex abuse by clergy and the systematic cover-ups by church hierarchy. The decades-long scandals have shaken the faith of many Catholics and threaten Francis’ papacy.
The scandal swirling around McCarrick was particularly damning to the church’s reputation because it apparently was an open secret in some church circles that he slept with adult seminarians. Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal in July after a U.S. church investigation determined that an allegation he fondled a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible
McCarrick already appealed the decision and lost his effort to reverse the charged.
One of McCarrick’s victims, James Grein, said that the Cardinal abused him starting when he was an 11-year-old boy.
“Today I am happy that the pope believed me,” Grein said.
The Church still has a long way to go to settle this scandal, but this is an important benchmark and shows that even the highest Church officials are not shielded from the consequences of their actions.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.