Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, was expelled from the priesthood after he was found guilty of sexual abuse.
Pope Francis has expelled Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, from the priesthood, after an expedited canonical process that found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over decades, the Vatican said on Saturday.
It appears to be the first time that a cardinal or bishop in the United States has been defrocked, or laicized, from the Catholic Church, and the first time any cardinal has been laicized for sexual abuse. Laicization, which strips a person of all priestly identity, also revokes church-sponsored resources like housing and financial benefits.
While the Vatican has laicized hundreds of priests for sexual abuse of minors, few of the church’s leaders have faced severe discipline. The move to defrock Mr. McCarrick is “almost revolutionary,” said Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America.
“Now you will see that bishops are also treated like their priests,” Mr. Martens said in a phone interview. “Bishops and former cardinals are no longer immune to punishment. The reverence that was shown in the past to bishops no longer applies.”
Mr. McCarrick, now 88, was accused of sexually abusing three minors and harassing adult seminarians and priests. A New York Times investigation last summer detailed settlements paid to men who had complained of abuse when Mr. McCarrick was a bishop in New Jersey in the 1980s, and revealed that some church leaders had long known of the accusations.
Francis accepted Mr. McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals in July and suspended him from all priestly duties. He was first removed from ministry in June, after a church panel substantiated a claim that he had abused an altar boy almost 50 years ago.
Mr. McCarrick was long a prominent Catholic voice on international and public policy issues, and a champion for progressive Catholics active in social justice causes.
The move is the most serious sign to date that Pope Francis is addressing the clerical sex abuse crisis in the United States. In October, the pope laicized two retired Chilean bishops accused of sexually abusing minors. In December, Pope Francis removed two top cardinals from his powerful advisory council after they were implicated in sexual abuse cases.
In the statement on Saturday, the Vatican said that the prelate had been dismissed from a clerical state after he was tried and found guilty of several crimes: “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.” Read original New York Times report here
Is this laicisation of a “Prince of the Church” a sign of things to come? Is the tide turning? Is this an indication that the liberal stranglehold on the Church is coming to an end? Will it help to rein in dissenters and abusers? Share your thoughts…