Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who led the Archdiocese of Washington and was a political force in the nation’s capital, said on Wednesday that he has been removed from public ministry by the Vatican because of a decades-old allegation of sexual abuse.
As a cardinal, McCarrick is one of the highest-ranking American leaders in the Catholic Church to be removed from office because of sex abuse charges.
“While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, 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,” McCarrick said in a statement.
McCarrick, who led the Archdiocese of Washington from 2001-2006, was known as a genial and effective advocate for the Catholic Church’s political priorities, particularly focusing on the plight of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.
But McCarrick, 87, said, “I will no longer exercise any public ministry.” The Catholic Church has used that form of punishment in the past to discipline clergy who are credibly suspected of sexual abuse. McCarrick said he accepted this penalty from the Holy See, meaning the Vatican.
In his statement, McCarrick said he was informed several months ago that the Archdiocese of New York, where he was a priest decades ago, was investigating an allegation of abuse from a teenager “from almost fifty years ago.”
“While shocked by the report, and while maintaining my innocence, I considered it essential that the charges be reported to the police, thoroughly investigated by an independent agency, and given to the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York,” McCarrick said. “I fully cooperated in the process,” he added.
The Archdiocese of New York and every other diocese in the country has encouraged those who suffered sexual abuse by a priest as minors to come forward.
“As he himself announced earlier this morning, a report has come to the archdiocese alleging abuse from almost forty-five years ago by the now retired Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who, at the time of the reported offense was a priest here in the Archdiocese of New York,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in a statement.
“The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, at the direction of Pope Francis, has instructed Cardinal McCarrick that he is no longer to exercise publicly his priestly ministry. Cardinal McCarrick, while maintaining his innocence, has accepted the decision.”
“My sadness was deepened when I was informed that the allegations had been determined credible and substantiated,” McCarrick said. “I realize this painful development will shock my many friends, family members, and people I have been honored to serve in my sixty-years as a priest.”