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First Cardinal Laicized For Sexual Abuse

The past decade has seen a dramatic rise in sexual abuse claims against the Catholic church. Various dioceses have settled individual and class action suits with victims, and while some priests have been removed from service and public life, it is rare for that to happen to cardinals. In 2019, Theodore Mccarrick became the first cardinal ever to be Laicized for committing sexual abuse.

Born in New York City in 1930, Theodore Mccarrick was ordained to the priesthood in 1958 after receiving his masters in Theology from St. Joseph’s Seminary. He continued his education at Catholic University where he earned his Ph.D. in Sociology, served as assistant chaplain, and became dean of students and director of development. He then served as President of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico before being recalled to the Blessed Sacrament Parish in 1969. During his time at this Parish he would later be accused of sexual abusing a minor.

Theodore Mccarrick rose quickly through the ranks of the church. In 1977 Pope John Paul II appointed McCarrick Auxiliary Bishop of New York as well as Tutular Bishop of Rusibisir. He also served as vicar of Harlem and East Manhattan. In 1981 he became the founding Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey in 1981. In 1986 he was appointed Archbishop of Newark. Later there would be multiple allegations of abuse by young seminarians. Frequently McCarrick would invite more seminarians to a house with limited accommodations, thus inviting those without beds to share his bed, say the accusers. This was described frequently by multiple accusers.

In November 2000 Pope John Paul II appointed Theodore Mccarrick as the Archbishop of Washington D.C. and a few months later, Pope John Paul II made McCarrick a cardinal. In May 2006, when he reached the customary age limit of 75, McCarrick resigned his position as Archbishop of Washington.

Rumors of McCarrick’s misconduct were on the record as early as 1994, when a concerned anonymous woman said that the Pope’s visit to Newark would be scandalous due to McCarrick’s behavior. Cardinal John O’Connor said that an internal investigation concluded that there would be no scandal. Over the next 15 years there would be multiple allegations against McCarrick, and all allegations were either ignored or announced as false.

In 2005 and 2007 settlements were made with two different priests who accused McCarrick of abuse. More payments were made over the next decade.  On July 27, 2018, Pope Francis ordered McCarrick to live a secluded life of prayer and penance. In February 2019 the Vatican announced that McCarrick had been laicized, ending any financial support and his laicization would be permanent. Lawsuits continue to be filed by victims against McCarrick and various dioceses.

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