NORFOLK COUNTY, MA — A criminal complaint was filed July 28 against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in Dedham District Court in Massachusetts. The alleged abuse occurred in the 1970s during a wedding reception at Wellesley College, located in Wellesley, Mass. At the time of the alleged abuse, McCarrick was assigned to and living in the rectory at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. McCarrick, who is 91 and currently living in Missouri, has been ordered by summons to appear in court for the arraignment on Aug. 26.
McCarrick, who was ordained in 1958 and defrocked in 2019, served as the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark from 1987 to 2000 and offered sacraments at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark from 1989 to 2000. The Archdiocese of Newark serves the Catholic communities in Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union counties.
This is not the first time McCarrick has been publicly named as an abuser. On Feb. 13, 2019, New Jersey’s five Roman Catholic dioceses released lists of priests who have been “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors in the past several decades. The Archdiocese of Newark released a list with 63 names on it, including McCarrick’s; all of the priests listed had either died or been removed from the ministry.
According to the Catholic Standard, following an investigation by a panel of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, McCarrick was found guilty of “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.”
According to published reports, McCarrick served as archbishop of Washington, D.C., from 2001 to 2006, when he submitted his resignation at age 75.
Just three days after the New Jersey dioceses released their lists in February 2019, the Vatican announced that McCarrick, who had attained the title of cardinal, had been defrocked.
Additionally, an independent report released by the Seton Hall University Board of Regents on Aug. 27, 2019, found that McCarrick had sexually harassed university seminarians during his time with the diocese. The report was compiled by Gibbon PC and Latham & Watkins LLP, and the findings were announced by the board to the university in an email. Though the full report was not shared due to Title IX restrictions, university officials said the report found that McCarrick had harassed seminarians between 1986 and 2000 — his entire time as the area’s archbishop.
According to the Latham and Watkins review, McCarrick “created a culture of fear and intimidation that supported his personal objectives. McCarrick used his position of power as then archbishop of Newark to sexually harass seminarians. No minors or other university students were determined to have been affected by McCarrick.”
Despite these past reports, the criminal charges filed July 28 mark the first time McCarrick has ever faced criminal charges. McCarrick has been charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person older than 14; the charges were filed by the Wellesley Police Department.
McCarrick has not been criminally charged in any of the prior cases largely because the statute of limitations has expired, as many cases date back to the 1970s and 1980s. The statute of limitations has not expired on the Massachusetts case because, since McCarrick was not a Massachusetts resident, the statute of limitations clock stopped running when he left the state.
The defrocked cardinal is the highest-ranking Catholic Church official ever in this country to be charged with sexually abusing a minor.
While the Archdiocese of Newark declined to comment on McCarrick specifically, it did reaffirm its commitment to support victims of abuse.
“It would be inappropriate for the Archdiocese of Newark to comment on matters regarding a now private individual who is no longer affiliated with the archdiocese,” Archdiocese of Newark spokesperson Maria Margiotta told the newspaper on July 30. “We remain united in our sympathy and support for all survivors of abuse, and we continue to focus on transparency, accountability, and established reporting and prevention policies and programs to protect the faithful of the Archdiocese of Newark.”
Mitchell Garabedian, who represents the Massachusetts victim in this case, started the criminal investigation by contacting local district attorney offices in Massachusetts.
“Historically, this is the first time ever in the United States that a cardinal has been criminally charged with a sexual crime against a minor,” Garabedian told the newspaper on July 30. “It takes an enormous amount of courage for a sexual abuse victim to report having been sexually abused to investigators and proceed through the criminal process. Let the facts be presented, the law applied and a fair verdict rendered.”
Locally, attorney Jeff Anderson, from the firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, currently represents four of McCarrick’s alleged victims from his time as a Catholic official in New York and New Jersey.
“Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s history of prolific sex crimes has been ignored by the highest-ranking Catholic officials for decades,” Anderson said in a statement. “For too long Catholic institutions have been self-policing while making pledges and promises without action — McCarrick should be behind bars for his crimes.”
Back in 2018, when McCarrick was first publicly accused of sexual misconduct by the Catholic Church, he denied any wrongdoing.
The charges against McCarrick are allegations. Under the law, McCarrick is presumed innocent unless or until he is found guilty in a court of law.