Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who stood accused of decades of sexual abuse of both adults and minors, was formally defrocked by the Vatican after being found guilty of soliciting for sex while hearing confessions, and other sexual crimes.
McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., and a favorite of presidents and popes alike, will suffer the ultimate punishment of the church for clergy by being forbidden to celebrate Mass or other sacraments, wear clerical vestments or be addressed by any religious title. He is the highest-ranking U.S. churchman to be punished in the ongoing sex abuse scandals that have rocked the church to its core worldwide.
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.
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.
The officials “imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.” It considered his appeal on Wednesday and upheld its ruling, telling McCarrick Friday of that decision, the Vatican said.
McCarrick, when he was ordained a priest in his native New York City in 1958, took a vow of celibacy in accordance with church rules on priests.
The pope “has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accordance with (church) law, rendering it as ‘res iudicata,'” the Vatican said, using the Latin phrase for admitting no further recourse.
McCarrick was a menace — a sexual predator who took advantage of his position of trust and power to abuse young boys and adult seminarians. His sexual deviancy was apparently well known in church circles in Newark, N.J., where he served as archbishop in the ’80s and ’90s, and in Washington, where he was archbishop from 2001 to 2006.
Church officials knew and did nothing — a pattern repeated in numerous dioceses in numerous countries around the world.
Pope Francis is convening an extraordinary meeting in five days to discuss the sex abuse crisis with other bishops,
The Vatican on Wednesday provided details about the Feb. 21-24 meeting, saying its main aim is to guarantee that bishops around the world “clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors.”
Francis will attend the full summit, which includes plenary meetings, working groups, witness testimony, a penitential service and a final Mass on Feb. 24.
Until the church begins to address the very sensitive, but very real problem of a gay subculture in many dioceses and — it’s alleged — in the Vatican itself, the sex abuse issue will continue to be a problem.
A book to be published February 21 — the same day that Francis convenes the sex abuse conference — claims that 80 percent of Catholic prelates and clergy in the Vatican are gay.
In the new book, which in other languages bears the more provocative title of Sodom: Power and Scandal in the Vatican, author Frédéric Martel — who is openly gay and an LGBT activist — accuses the Catholic Church of hypocrisy for its opposition to gay marriage and adoption when so many of its own clerics are active homosexuals.