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Cardinal Theodore McCarrick Lisa Bourne / LifeSiteNews

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Vatican laicizes disgraced ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick

ROME February 16, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Vatican today announced that ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been stripped of the clerical state for crimes against minors and adults, with no possibility for appeal.  

In a brief statement issued on Saturday morning, the Vatican said at the conclusion of the penal process, the Congresso — a weekly meeting of superiors and officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — “issued a decree finding Theodore Edgar McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., guilty of the following delicts while a cleric: 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.”

“The Congresso imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state,” it said.

The CDF issued the decree on Jan. 11, 2019, but McCarrick appealed the decision. In a meeting earlier this week, CDF officials “examined the arguments in the recourse,” but “confirmed the decree of the Congresso,” finding McCarrick guilty of the aforementioned crimes.

McCarrick was notified of this decision on Friday, February 15, 2019, the statement said. It added that Pope Francis has “recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law, rendering it a res iudicata (i.e., admitting of no further recourse).”  

The  CDF’s full statement reads:

On 11 January 2019, the Congresso of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the conclusion of a penal process, issued a decree finding Theodore Edgar McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., guilty of the following delicts while a cleric: solicitation in th Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power. The Congresso imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.

On 13 February 2019, the Ordinary Session (Feria IV) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith considered the recourse he presented against this decision. Having examined the arguments in the recourse, the Ordinary Session confirmed the decree of the Congresso. This decision was notified to Theodore McCarrick on 15 February 2019.The Holy Father has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law, rendering it a res iudicata (i.e., admitting of no further recourse).

Theodore McCarrick was ordained to the priesthood in New York City in 1958. He was consecrated bishop in 1977, becoming an auxiliary of the archdiocese of New York, under then-Cardinal Terence Cooke. McCarrick rose through the episcopal ranks, becoming bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey in 1981, Archbishop of Newark in 1986 and Archbishop of Washington, D.C., in 2000. Pope John Paul created him a cardinal in 2001.

It was in the early 1970s, while serving as a priest in New York City, that McCarrick is alleged to have groped an adolescent altar boy in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was that accusation which launched the internal investigation by Church authorities.

In June 2018, the Archdiocese of New York announced allegations that McCarrick molested an underage altar boy decades ago had been deemed “credible and substantiated.”

At the time of the accusations, McCarrick maintained he had “absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse and believe in my innocence.”

Since then, other alleged victims including  former seminarians and priests have come forward to detail the sexual abuse to which McCarrick subjected them. McCarrick’s most well known victim, James Grein, has also come forward and said McCarrick abused him for years starting when he was 11 years old.

In July 2018, Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals and ordered him to “a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.” He has been living in at a friary in Kansas next to an elementary school.

Numerous Catholics have called for McCarrick to be laicized.

The correct term for “defrocking” or “laicization” in canon law is “dismissal from the clerical state.” Canonists say the punishment meted out to McCarrick technically does not mean that he is no longer a priest or a bishop, as priestly and episcopal ordination indelibly mark the soul of the man ordained. But McCarrick, 88, can no longer exercise any priestly duties, including the celebration of the Mass, hearing Confessions, etc.

According to Canon 290, a cleric can lose the clerical state through a decree by a church court that declares the invalidity of his ordination, or by a papal decision regarding the “most grave causes.” Among these is the sexual abuse of a minor under the age of 16.

In December, Grein, now in his 60s,  met with New York City Assistant District Attorney Sara Sullivan. He has filed a compensation claim with the Archdiocese of New York alleging that McCarrick first exposed himself when Grein was 11, continuing to abuse him for about 20 years, according to his attorney. Grein notified the district attorney of the allegations on November 1, and later testified to Vatican investigators. Once the Church investigation was complete, the final verdict was conveyed to the Vatican.

While McCarrick is not expected to face criminal prosecution because the allegations exceed the statutes of limitations in the U.S. jurisdictions where they are said to have occurred, Grein’s allegations have brought to focus decades-long and cover-ups by Catholic Church leaders.

News of the today’s verdict comes ahead of the Vatican’s Feb. 21-24 summit on clerical sex abuse. The summit, titled “the protection of minors in the Church,” will be attended by the heads of bishops’ conferences from all over the world.

The meeting has been called due to swelling public anger, especially in the United States, over the McCarrick case, and to a host of other abuse scandals that have come to light in the US, Europe, Latin America and Australia.

Central to the McCarrick scandal are these unanswered questions: Why did so many Church leaders remain silent amid widely rumoured allegations that McCarrick was corrupting seminarians and priests? And why was his ascendancy through the episcopal ranks to the cardinalate protected?

In August, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who served as apostolic nuncio to the United States from 2011-2016, accused Pope Francis and senior Vatican officials of knowing about McCarrick’s alleged misconduct.

Although Benedict XVI had tried to curtail McCarrick’s public ministry after he retired as Archbishop of Washington D.C. in 2006, Archbishop Viganò claimed that Francis had rehabilitated him.

In his explosive 11-page testimony, Archbishop Vigano also alleges that McCarrick, acting as the Pope’s “trusted counselor,” helped him in key appointments in the United States, including that of Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, whom Pope Francis has tasked with organizing the upcoming Vatican summit on clerical sexual abuse.

Pope Francis has not responded to the accusations, and the Vatican has yet to release the findings of a promised investigation into its own archives on McCarrick.

The Holy Father did recently accept the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as archbishop of Washington, D.C. after his credibility was questioned over his claims he knew nothing of his predecessor’s predation.  

In an open letter released last month, Archbishop Viganò called on McCarrick to repent publicly in order to “bring a significant measure of healing to a gravely wounded and suffering Church.”

McCarrick’s attempt to appeal the verdict is a sign that prayers for his repentance are still needed.

In a statement released through his lawyer today, James Grein said that while “nothing can give me back my childhood,” and “there are no winners here,” with the verdict “today I am happy that the Pope believed me.”

“I am hopeful now I can pass through my anger for the last time. I hope that Cardinal McCarrick will no longer be able to use the power of Jesus’ Church to manipulate families and sexually abuse children, Grein said.

Mr. Grein’s statement can be read in full here.

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