Theodore Edgar McCarrick was ordained as a priest in 1958 and rose to positions of power within the Catholic Church, eventually becoming Archbishop of Washington, DC. In 2019, he became the highest-ranking member of the Catholic church to be defrocked over sexual abuse allegations.
On February 13, 2019, Theodore E. McCarrick became the first bishop in modern times to be laicized (defrocked) from the Roman Catholic Church after Vatican trial launched in 2018. McCarrick, 88 at the time, was dismissed from the clergy after being found guilty of decades of sexual abuse of minors and adult seminarians.
This was an especially significant moment because of McCarrick's status within the church. He had been a key fundraiser, international representative for the Vatican in delicate political situations, presided over high profile funerals including those of Senator Ted Kennedy, journalist Tim Russert, and the Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden. He had also been a public-facing figure, even appearing on Meet the Press to discuss the child abuse scandal within the church in 2004.
What are McCarrick's crimes?
McCarrick was initially removed from public ministry by the Holy See on June 20, 2018, following an investigation into claims that he had sexually abused a 16-year-old altar boy 47 years ago while serving as a priest in New York. A review board of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York found the allegation that he had abused the altar boy on two occasions, once in 1971 and once in 1972, "reliable and credible."
In response, McCarrick claimed to be innocent and have "no recollection" of the events described. However, after the first public accusation came to light, numerous other allegations emerged. Eventually, he was accused of sexually abusing three men when they were minors. One, James Grien, who had been the first baby McCarrick baptized after becoming a priest, said he began abusing him when he was 11.
And, it turned out, there had been multiple complaints brought against him over the years by adult seminarians, of which the Catholic Church had been aware. The first documented complaint against McCarrick from an adult was made in 1994, when a priest wrote a letter to the Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, where McCarrick had been Bishop from 1981-1986, accusing McCarrick of sexually and emotionally abusing him and his fellow seminarians. According to a New York Times report, the letter also stated that the abuse had led the priest to touch two teenage boys inappropriately. The church's response at the time was to send him to therapy and move him to another diocese.
In 2006, the Archdiocese of Trenton, Metuchen, and Newark quietly paid a settlement of $100,000 to that same priest, who had been forced to resign after the church instilled a zero-tolerance policy against clergy accused of child abuse. In 2004, they had paid an $80,000 settlement to another man who had accused McCarrick of abusing him when he was a seminarian and priest - on the condition that he never speak to the media about it. Many other stories emerged from men who said McCarrick took them on trips to his beach house in New Jersey - which the diocese of Metuchen had paid for - and would select one young man to sleep in his bed with him.
What was McCarrick's history?
Born on July 7, 1930, in New York City, McCarrick was the son of two Irish Americans. He father died of tuberculosis when McCarrick was three, and McCarrick's mother went to work in an auto factory. He attended Catholic schools in New York and then went to Fordham University to continue his Jesuit education. He attended seminary at St. Joseph's in Yonkers, New York, and was ordained into the priesthood in 1958.
McCarrick was named the Auxillary Bishop of New York in 1977, became Bishop of Metuchen in 1981, and served as the Archbishop of Washington DC from 2000 until 2006, when he stepped aside as is customary when a bishop reaches the age of 75.
He had been awarded the Ellis Island Hall of Fame membership in 1990, in honor of his Irish immigrant roots.
Where is McCarrick now?
Since September 2018, McCarrick has been living at the St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary in the small town of Victoria, Kansas. The church moved him there from Washington, DC while he awaited his Vatican trial, likely to keep him out of the spotlight.
As a result of the trial, McCarrick was laicized - stripped of all his priestly authority and entitlements - which should include church housing. However, he has remained at the friary since being laicized due to his old age.
Slate magazine sent reporter Ruth Graham to Victoria, and in September 2019 they published his first interview since his decades of abuse came to light. In the interview, he continued to deny the accusations against him.
Starting in August, more accusations were filed against McCarrick when the one-year window created by New York State's Child Victims Act opened. It allows survivors of any age one year to file suit against their abusers and/or the institutions they were a part of and permanently changed the age limit from 23-years-old to 28-years-old for criminal cases and 55-years-old of civil cases.