Catholic Church

Ex-Roman Catholic cardinal, now 93, not competent to stand trial in sex abuse case, judge rules

McCarrick has maintained that he is innocent, and pleaded not guilty in September 2021

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Former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is not competent to stand trial on charges accusing him of sexually assaulting a teenage boy in Massachusetts decades ago, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Following Judge Paul J. McCallum's ruling, for which McCarrick appeared remotely via Zoom, prosecutors moved to dismiss the case against the defrocked priest and the motion was granted, according to The Boston Globe.

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McCarrick's attorneys asked the court to dismiss the case in February, saying a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine had examined him and concluded that he has dementia, likely Alzheimer's disease. At the time, lawyers said McCarrick had a “limited understanding” of the criminal proceedings against him, but that “his progressive and irreparable cognitive deficits render him unable to meaningfully consult with counsel or to effectively assist in his own defense."

An expert hired by the prosecution ultimately agreed with that assertion.

McCarrick, 93, has maintained that he is innocent, and pleaded not guilty in September 2021 to charges that he abused the boy at a wedding reception at Wellesley College in 1974. He was also charged in April with sexually assaulting an 18-year-old man in Wisconsin more than 45 years ago.

The former cardinal, who lives at an assisted living facility in Dittmer, Missouri, was facing three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14. He was not exempt from facing charges because the clock stopped on the statute of limitations when he left Massachusetts.

Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer for clergy sexual abuse victims who represented the man accusing McCarrick, released a statement saying that in spite of Wednesday's decision, "many clergy sexual abuse victims feel as though former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is and will always be the permanent personification of evil within the Catholic Church."

The accuser, who is not identified in court filings, told authorities during a 2021 interview that McCarrick was close to the man’s family when he was growing up. Prosecutors say McCarrick would attend family gatherings and travel on vacations with them and that the victim referred to the priest as “Uncle Ted.”

Prosecutors say McCarrick abused him over several years including when the boy, who was then 16, was at his brother’s wedding reception at Wellesley College.

Prosecutors say McCarrick told the boy his dad wanted him to have a talk with the priest because the boy was “being mischievous at home and not attending church.” The man told investigators that they took a walk around campus, and McCarrick groped him before they went back to the party. The man said McCarrick also sexually assaulted him in a coat room after they returned to the reception, authorities wrote in the documents.

Prosecutors say McCarrick told the boy to say the “Hail Mary” and “Our Father” prayers before leaving the room.

Ordained as a priest in New York City in 1958, McCarrick was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after a Vatican investigation determined he sexually molested adults as well as children. An internal Vatican investigation found that bishops, cardinals and popes downplayed or dismissed reports of sexual misconduct over many years.

The case created a credibility crisis for the church since the Vatican had reports from authoritative cardinals dating to 1999 that McCarrick’s behavior was problematic, yet he became an influential cardinal, kingmaker and emissary of the Holy See’s “soft diplomacy.”

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