Theodore Edgar McCarrick

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Theodore Edgar McCarrick
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick.jpg
McCarrick speaking at the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
AppointedNovember 21, 2000
InstalledJanuary 3, 2001
Term endedMay 16, 2006
PredecessorJames Aloysius Hickey
SuccessorDonald Wuerl
OrdinationMay 31, 1958
by Francis Spellman
(laicized February 13, 2019)
ConsecrationJune 29, 1977
by Terence Cooke
Created cardinalFebruary 21, 2001
by Pope John Paul II
(removed by Pope Francis)
Personal details
Birth nameTheodore Edgar McCarrick
Born (1930-07-07) July 7, 1930 (age 88)
New York City, New York, United States
Previous post
Ordination history of
Theodore Edgar McCarrick
Episcopal consecration
Consecrated byTerence Cooke
DateJune 29, 1977
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Theodore Edgar McCarrick as principal consecrator
John Mortimer SmithJanuary 25, 1988
James Thomas McHughJanuary 25, 1988
Michael Angelo SaltarelliJuly 30, 1990
Charles James McDonnellMarch 12, 1994
João José BurkeMay 25, 1995
Nicholas Anthony DiMarzioOctober 31, 1996
Paul Gregory BootkoskiSeptember 5, 1997
Vincent DePaul BreenSeptember 8, 1997
Arthur Joseph SerratelliSeptember 8, 2000
Francisco González ValerFebruary 11, 2002
Kevin Joseph FarrellFebruary 11, 2002
Martin D. HolleyJuly 2, 2004

Theodore Edgar McCarrick (born July 7, 1930) is a laicized American bishop, former prelate and former cardinal of the Catholic Church. Ordained in 1958, he became an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York in 1977, then became bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey in 1981. From 1986-2000, he was Archbishop of Newark. He became a cardinal in February 2001 and served as Archbishop of Washington, D.C. from 2001 to 2006. McCarrick retired in 2006 at the customary age of 75[1] but continued to be a prominent figure in the church well into the 2010s, remaining a globe-trotting diplomat on behalf of the Vatican and occasionally the U.S. State Department.[2]

McCarrick was one of the most recognized American cardinals in the world and a prolific fundraiser, and was considered a power broker in Washington, D.C., where he was connected to prominent politicians.[1] Within the church, McCarrick was variously regarded as a moderate[3][4] or progressive.[5] McCarrick was a champion for progressive Catholics active in social justice causes,[6] but was also "orthodox in his adherence to Roman Catholic dogma", opposing abortion and same-sex marriage and supporting the all-male priesthood.[7]

McCarrick has been accused of engaging in sexual conduct with adult male seminarians over the course of decades, and this was alleged to be an open secret in some ecclesial circles.[8] Though multiple reports about McCarrick's conduct with adult seminarians were made to American bishops and the Vatican between 1993 and 2016,[9][10] details of McCarrick's alleged sexual proclivities and allegations of sexual abuse against male minors were not publicly known until 2018. In June 2018, the Vatican removed McCarrick from public ministry because of credible sexual misconduct allegations.[11] In July 2018, the New York Times published a story detailing a pattern of sexual abuse of male seminarians and minors.[1] The emergence of these reports and the lack of action from the church hierarchy infuriated Catholics and sparked demands for action against church leaders believed to be responsible.[2][12]

McCarrick submitted his resignation from the College of Cardinals in July 2018, which was accepted by Pope Francis.[13] Francis ordered McCarrick to a life of prayer and penance until a canonical trial could be held.[14] After a church investigation and trial, he was found guilty of sexual crimes against adults and minors and abuse of power, and was dismissed from the clergy in February 2019.[15] McCarrick is the most senior church official in modern times to be laicized[16] – commonly referred to as defrocking – and is believed to be the first cardinal ever laicized for sexual misconduct.[17]

Early life and education[edit]

An only child, McCarrick was born into an Irish American family in New York City to Theodore E. and Margaret T. (née McLaughlin) McCarrick.[18] His father was a ship captain who died from tuberculosis when McCarrick was three years old,[19] and his mother then worked at an automobile parts factory in the Bronx.[20] As a child, McCarrick served as an altar boy at the Church of the Incarnation in Washington Heights.[20] He was expelled from Xavier High School in his junior year for missing classes.[7][21]

McCarrick missed an academic year due to the expulsion, but a friend in his family was able to help get him into the Jesuit Fordham Preparatory School.[7][22] At Fordham, he was elected student council president and served in the ROTC program for the United States Air Force.[7] McCarrick studied in Switzerland for a year before returning to the United States and attending Fordham University.[22]

McCarrick later entered St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, from where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy (1954) and a Master of Arts in theology (1958).[18]

McCarrick is a polyglot, speaking five languages.[23][24]


McCarrick was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Francis Spellman, Archbishop of New York, on May 31, 1958.[25] From 1958 to 1963, he furthered his studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., earning a Ph.D. in sociology. He then served as an assistant chaplain at the Catholic University, becoming dean of students and director of development.[18]

McCarrick and Admiral William Fallon, September 16, 2001, in Washington, D.C.

McCarrick served as president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico from 1965 to 1969, and was raised to the rank of Domestic Prelate of His Holiness in 1965.[18] In 1969, Cardinal Terence Cooke recalled McCarrick to New York. McCarrick was an associate secretary for education and an assistant priest at Blessed Sacrament parish from 1969 to 1971.[18] He was Cooke's secretary from 1971 to 1977.[18][26] He was later accused of sexually abusing a male minor during this period.[27]

Episcopal career[edit]

Auxiliary bishop of New York[edit]

In May 1977, McCarrick was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of New York and Titular Bishop of Rusibisir by Pope Paul VI. He received his episcopal consecration on the following June 29 from Cardinal Cooke, with Archbishop John Maguire and Bishop Patrick Ahern serving as co-consecrators. He selected as his episcopal motto: "Come Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).[25]

As an auxiliary to Cardinal Cooke, he served as vicar of East Manhattan and the Harlems.[18]

Bishop of Metuchen[edit]

McCarrick was named the founding Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, on November 19, 1981. He was installed at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral on January 31, 1982. During his tenure, McCarrick erected new parishes in Perth Amboy, Califon, Skillman, Old Bridge, and Three Bridges.[28] He also oversaw the development of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, Bishop's Annual Appeal, and ministries for blacks and Hispanics, pro-life activities, and the disabled.[28]

In 2001 a Catholic high school, originally established in 1885 and renamed multiple times through the years, was named Cardinal McCarrick High School in honor of McCarrick as the first bishop of the diocese. The school permanently closed in June 2015 for financial reasons.[29]

Archbishop of Newark[edit]

On May 30, 1986, McCarrick was appointed the fourth Archbishop of Newark. He succeeded Peter Leo Gerety, and was installed at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on the following July 25. During his tenure, he established the Office of Evangelization, ministries for Hispanics and victims of HIV, and a drug prevention program.[30] He also promoted vocations, and ordained a total of 200 priests for the Archdiocese.[20]

McCarrick in June 2006

McCarrick became known as an advocate for social justice, once saying, "[T]he Church cannot be authentic unless it takes care of the poor, the newcomers, the needy".[20] During the 1980s, he served as an official observer to the Helsinki Commission and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, serving at the behest of the State Department.[30] In 1988, he participated in an interfaith meeting with Fidel Castro to promote religious freedom in Cuba, the first meeting of its kind subsequent to the fall of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. McCarrick, as a representative of Irish immigrant families, was chosen to be placed in the Ellis Island Hall of Fame on December 8, 1990.[30]

Within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), he served as chairman of the Committee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe from 1992 to 1997. In this capacity, he visited such countries as Yugoslavia, the Baltics, and Kazakhstan. He was twice elected to head the USCCB's Committee on Migration, and once asked the Congress "to recognize and support the important task of nurturing new citizens so that they may begin to play a full role in the future of this nation."[30] He later became a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants.

He was elected chairman of the Bishops' Committee on International Policy in 1996. His other visits included Bosnia (which he described as "reminiscent of the Holocaust"), China, Poland, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, and Switzerland.[20][30] Joined by Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, he announced an initiative in 1997 to assure that Catholic school uniforms in his Archdiocese would not be manufactured in sweatshops.[31]

In 1998, in addition to his duties as archbishop, McCarrick was designated as superior of the Roman Catholic Mission sui iuris of the Turks and Caicos Islands; he delegated this mission to priests of the Neocatechumenal Way.[32]

Archbishop of Washington, D.C.[edit]

President George W. Bush and Laura Bush welcome outgoing Archbishop of Washington McCarrick, left, the incoming Archbishop of Washington Donald Wuerl, far right, and Papal Nuncio Pietro Sambi to the White House.

Pope John Paul II appointed McCarrick Archbishop of Washington, D.C. in November 2000.[33] McCarrick was formally installed as the fifth archbishop of Washington at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on January 3, 2001.[34] On February 21, 2001, John Paul made him a cardinal,[35][36] assigning him as cardinal priest to the titular church of Ss. Nerei e Achilleo. He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI.[37]

In June 2004, McCarrick was accused by conservative Catholics of intentionally misreading a document from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, recommending that Catholic politicians who supported abortion be denied the Eucharist. McCarrick led a successful push to have the USCCB allow the bishops of individual dioceses to make a determination on who was or was not eligible to receive the sacrament rather than forbid all pro-abortion American politicians from doing so. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus said, "The bishops I have talked to have no doubt that [McCarrick's] presentation did not accurately represent the communication from Cardinal Ratzinger."[38] McCarrick said that he did not want to cause "a confrontation with the Sacred Body of the Lord Jesus in my hand," and added that "the individual should be the one who decides whether or not he is in communion with the Church" and therefore eligible to receive the sacrament. McCarrick later had a meeting with John Kerry, a Catholic and the Democratic nominee in that year's presidential election. Some Catholics felt that due to Kerry's pro-choice position, he should not have been allowed to receive Communion.[7]

Although McCarrick was sometimes labelled a liberal, he was noted for adhering to church teaching on abortion, same-sex marriage, and the male-only priesthood.[7]

Retirement as archbishop[edit]

On May 16, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI accepted McCarrick's resignation as Archbishop of Washington, upon the latter's reaching the customary age limit of 75, and appointed Donald Wuerl, Bishop of Pittsburgh, as the 6th Archbishop of Washington, DC. From May 16, 2006, until Wuerl's installation on June 22, 2006, McCarrick served as the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Washington, an interim post.[39]

After his retirement, McCarrick resided for some time at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in the Archdiocese of Washington. He subsequently moved to the grounds of the provincial headquarters of the Institute of the Incarnate Word in Chillum, Maryland, in a building on a complex that included a seminary.[40]

McCarrick was named a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 2007.[41]

In 2009, McCarrick presided over the graveside service of U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery, where he read from a letter Kennedy had written to Pope Benedict XVI.[42][43][44] In 2015, he served as one of the concelebrants at the funeral of Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden,[45] the son of then-Vice President Joe Biden,[46] and delivered the closing mass as well.[47]

Within the church, McCarrick "was always seen as a moderate, centrist presence in the hierarchy, a telegenic pastor who could present the welcoming face of the church, no matter what the circumstances."[3] The Washington Post identified him in a 2014 article as "one of a number of senior churchmen who were more or less put out to pasture during the eight-year pontificate of Benedict XVI," adding that after the election of Pope Francis he found himself put "back in the mix."[3] During his retirement, McCarrick pressed House Speaker John Boehner to take up immigration reform. McCarrick spent a significant amount of time traveling and engaging in inter-religious dialogue. In April 2014, at the request of the U.S. State Department, McCarrick (along with a Muslim and an Evangelical cleric) made a trip to the Central African Republic, a country suffering from ethnic and interreligious violence.[3] In May 2014, he traveled with Pope Francis to the Holy Land.[3] McCarrick also traveled to Armenia to discuss Syria with Eastern Orthodox clerics, the Philippines to visit typhoon victims, China for discussions on religious freedom, Iran for talks on nuclear proliferation,[3] and served as a Vatican intermediary for the U.S.-Cuba talks.[48]

Accusations of sexual abuse, investigations, and punishments[edit]

Sexual advances toward seminarians[edit]

A news report by the Catholic News Agency, based on interviews with six unnamed priests of the Archdiocese of Newark, described Cardinal McCarrick's actions while Archbishop of Newark. According to this report, when McCarrick would visit the seminary in the Newark diocese, he "would often place his hand on seminarians while talking with them, or on their thighs while seated near them." One of the priests stated that McCarrick "had a type: tall, slim, intelligent – but no smokers." He stated that McCarrick would invite young men to stay at his house on the shore, or to spend the night in the cathedral rectory in central Newark.[49] In response to the story, the Archdiocese of Newark stated that neither the six anonymous priests interviewed for the story, nor anyone else, "has ever spoken to [current Newark Archbishop] Cardinal Tobin about a 'gay sub-culture' in the Archdiocese of Newark."[49]

Michael Reading, who was ordained a priest by McCarrick, stated that he had heard stories about McCarrick's sexual advances toward seminarians when he himself was a seminarian in Newark in 1986.[9]

2005 and 2007 financial settlements[edit]

Between 2005 and 2007, the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark paid financial settlements to two priests who had accused McCarrick of abuse.[50][51] These settlements totalled $180,000.[52] $80,000 was paid to abuse victim Robert Ciolek;[53] a portion of this amount was paid by the Archdiocese of Newark (where McCarrick had been archbishop from 1986 to 2001) and was authorized by Newark archbishop John J. Myers.[53] Another portion of this amount was paid by the Diocese of Trenton; however, this diocese stated in 2018 that the Ciolek settlement did not concern abuse by McCarrick.[53] In addition, $100,000 was paid in 2006 to an abuse victim by the Diocese of Metuchen (where McCarrick had been bishop from 1981 to 1986).[53] The Diocese of Metuchen paid $53,333.34 for two other sex-abuse complaints (it is unclear whether one of these was the Ciolek settlement); these payments were authorized by Metuchen bishop Paul G. Bootkoski, who also reported the offenses to law enforcement.[53]

According to Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, nobody from these dioceses informed him of these settlements, even after the retired McCarrick began living on the grounds of a seminary in the Archdiocese of Washington.[50][40]

In 2010, clerical abuse expert Richard Sipe published excerpts from the 2005 and 2007 settlement documents.[54]

Warnings about McCarrick's conduct[edit]

There have been questions about how much senior Catholic officials might have known about McCarrick's actions.[55] After McCarrick was removed from active ministry on June 20, 2018, numerous bishops facing heavy pressure denied any prior knowledge of McCarrick's misconduct. These denials have been called into question by some.[56]

Father Boniface Ramsey, pastor of St. Joseph's Church, Yorkville, in New York City, had repeatedly issued warnings to church officials regarding abuse throughout his career. Ramsey stated that he spoke to Thomas C. Kelly, Archbishop of Louisville, about McCarrick's behavior in 1993.[9] In 2000, Ramsey wrote to the Papal Nuncio Gabriel Montalvo Higuera, and warned Pope John Paul II about making McCarrick Archbishop of Washington.[1][57][9] On October 11, 2006, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the former Vatican substitute for general affairs and current Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, wrote to Ramsey and stated that Montalvo Higuera had told him about Ramsey's allegations against McCarrick.[58] Ramsey wrote to Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, in 2015.[1][57][59] O'Malley stated that he never saw the letter, and that it had been handled "at the staff level."[59] Ramsey said that he tried to speak with Cardinal Edward Egan, then Archbishop of New York, about McCarrick's history, but that Egan "didn't want to hear it."[57]

Documents obtained by The New York Times reveal that in 1994 a priest wrote a letter to Bishop Edward T. Hughes, McCarrick's successor as Bishop of Metuchen, stating that McCarrick had inappropriately touched him.[1] Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan said that during his time as papal nuncio to the United States in 1994, prior to Pope John Paul II's visit to the United States in 1995, he received a phone call from a woman who was concerned that there would be a "media scandal if the Pope goes to Newark" because of "voices (rumors) about McCarrick's behavior with seminarians." Cacciavillan then told Cardinal John O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, about the woman's call. O'Connor supposedly conducted an "investigation, an inquiry" and eventually told Caccavillan that "there was no obstacle to the visit of the Pope to Newark." Caccavillan stated that he did not attempt to contact the Vatican.[60]

Richard Sipe stated that he wrote a letter to Benedict XVI in 2008 saying that McCarrick's activities "had been widely known for several decades."[1] Sipe delivered a letter to Bishop Robert W. McElroy in 2016 concerning sexual misconduct by McCarrick. McElroy said that nothing could be done because of an inability to determine whether the allegations were credible.[10]

One journalist claims that in a conversation with Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, Tobin said that around the time he became Archbishop of Newark in 2016, he heard "rumors" about McCarrick having slept with seminarians, but chose not to believe them, stating that at the time they seemed too "incredulous" to be true.[61] Despite repeated denials, Cardinal Wuerl, McCarrick's successor as Archbishop of Washington, has been widely suspected of knowing about McCarrick's conduct and failing to take action against him. Even before this was proven to be true, one writer claimed that if his denials are true, Wuerl "is the Church's most oblivious cleric."[62]

On August 29, Bishop Steven J. Lopes criticized his fellow bishops and questioned the truthfulness of those claiming to have been ignorant of McCarrick's actions. "I'll tell you what response I think is not good enough. It's the parade of cardinals and bishops who have rushed to the television cameras clutching their pectoral crosses, saying, 'I knew nothing.' I don't believe it, and I am one of them. I don't believe it." He continued, "I was a seminarian when Theodore McCarrick was named archbishop of Newark. And he would visit the seminary often, and we all knew."[56]

In 2012, The New York Times Magazine scheduled but never published a story detailing McCarrick's abuse of adult seminarians, based on court documents of the legal settlements between McCarrick and former seminarians, and an interview with one of the victims.[63][64]

On August 16, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), asked Pope Francis to initiate an investigation led by members of both the clergy and the laity into who knew about McCarrick's activities and how he was able to rise to a high position in the church despite the allegations against him. On September 20, after a month with no formal response from the Pope, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, commented that he was getting "a little bit impatient."[65]

On January 10, 2019, The Washington Post published a story stating that Wuerl, despite his past denials, was aware of allegations against McCarrick in 2004 and reported them to the Vatican. Robert Ciolek, a former priest who reached a settlement in 2005 after accusing several church officials including McCarrick of sexual misconduct, told the Post that he recently learned that the Diocese of Pittsburgh has a file that shows that Wuerl was aware of his allegations against McCarrick. The file includes documentation that Wuerl, who was bishop of Pittsburgh at the time, shared the information with then-Vatican ambassador Gabriel Montalvo. Both the Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Archdiocese of Washington acknowledged that Wuerl knew about and reported Ciolek's allegation to the Vatican.[66]

Viganò allegations[edit]

On August 25, 2018 Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, released an 11-page letter describing a series of warnings to the Vatican regarding McCarrick.[67] Viganò stated that Montalvo, then nuncio to the United States, had informed the Vatican in 2000 of McCarrick's "gravely immoral behaviour with seminarians and priests." Subsequently, Archbishop Pietro Sambi (nuncio from 2005 to 2011) had informed the Vatican again. In 2006, Viganò – then working at the Vatican – wrote his own memo regarding McCarrick. However, he says, nothing was done to stop McCarrick.[67]

In 2008, Viganò says he wrote a second memo, including material from Sipe.[67] As a result, in 2009 or 2010 Pope Benedict XVI allegedly placed severe restrictions on McCarrick's movements and public ministry, not allowing him to travel beyond the grounds of the seminary where he was living and not permitting him to say Mass in public.[67] However, according to Viganò, Pope Francis subsequently removed these sanctions and made McCarrick "his trusted counselor", even though Francis "knew from at least June 23, 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator. He knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end."[67] It was quickly noted that during the time McCarrick was allegedly under sanction, he maintained a "robust public presence" full of international travel, public masses, speeches, and the acceptance of awards.[68] He even joined with other bishops to present Pope Benedict a birthday cake.[69] Viganò's credibility was also called into question due to public spats with the Pope over the enforcement of Catholic morality.[70] He also showed staunch disapproval of the resignation of St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt, which occurred during Pope Francis' time in power, and reportedly attempted to end the sex abuse investigation which led to Nienstedt's departure.[71][70] Viganò's defenders subsequently suggested that these restrictions might not have been formal sanctions but rather informal requests that were loosely enforced.[72][73] Viganò released documentation attempting to prove that he did not obstruct the investigation into Nienstedt.[74]

Viganò also claimed that McCarrick "orchestrated" the appointments of Cardinal Blase J. Cupich as Archbishop of Chicago and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin as Archbishop of Newark.[67] Journalists at the time of the appointments of both Cupich and Tobin reported that McCarrick had played the decisive role in recommending both.[75] Viganò stated that he discussed McCarrick's conduct and the penalties surrounding it with McCarrick's successor as Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl. After the report was released, Wuerl's spokesperson denied that he was aware of any misconduct by McCarrick.[76] In the letter containing these allegations, Viganò called on Francis and all others who covered up McCarrick's conduct to resign.[67]

Asked to respond to Viganò's allegations the following day, Pope Francis replied that reporters should "do your jobs" and make conclusions themselves based on the testimony presented.[77] Francis confirmed that he had read Viganò's statement, and then told the journalist who had asked the question, "You read the statement attentively, and you make your own judgment. I will not say a single word about this.... I believe the statement speaks for itself, and you have enough journalistic capacity to reach the conclusions."[77]

According to veteran Vatican journalist John Allen, the "clear suggestion" from Francis was that "if they did so, the charges would crumble under their own weight."[78] On August 28, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki said, in reference to Francis' statement, "Frankly, but with all due respect, that response is not adequate." He called on all Vatican officials, including Francis, to "make public the pertinent files indicating who knew what and when...and provide the accountability that the Holy Father has promised."[79]

Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, the former first counsellor at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., confirmed that Viganò had told "the truth" but declined to offer additional comment. In his letter, Viganò had cited Lantheaume as the one who told him about the alleged "stormy" encounter between McCarrick and Sambi in which Sambi informed McCarrick of the sanctions being placed on him.[80]

The New York Times stated that Viganò's letter contained "unsubstantiated allegations and personal attacks", and described it as "an extraordinary public declaration of war against Francis' papacy at perhaps its most vulnerable moment."[69] A number of bishops sharply criticized the letter[81][82] while others called for an investigation.[83][84]

The McCarrick case and Viganò allegations, happening at about the same time as the conclusion of the grand jury investigation of Catholic Church sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, which alleged systematic cover-up of clergy sex abuse by bishops in Pennsylvania over decades, produced what has variously been described as a "Catholic insurgency" or "Catholic civil war." Significant numbers of lay Catholics have called on bishops implicated in alleged cover-ups as well as Pope Francis to resign. The problem has also opened up ideological divisions within the Church. Large numbers of conservatives, many of whom have long disliked Pope Francis, have called on him and certain bishops to resign following the Viganò letter and other revelations, while liberals, most of whom have been supportive of Francis's papacy in the past, have more commonly criticized the letter and defended Francis.[85][86]

Viganò has subsequently released three follow-up letters. In these letters, he defends himself from critics, adds more details to his claims, and calls on more Church leaders to speak out.[87][88][89] After the publication of the second letter, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who had been named by Viganò in that letter as the person who allegedly told him about the sanctions, released a public response strongly chastising Viganò, while confirming that informal sanctions were placed on McCarrick and that, as Viganò said, he was the one who told Viganò about them. This contradicts Viganò's statement that the sanctions were official but supports the claim that some restrictions were placed on McCarrick during Benedict XVI's papacy.[90][87]

In February 2019, French author Frédéric Martel affirmed that Pope Francis's aides told him that Viganò had informed Francis about allegations involving seminarians but that Francis had dismissed them. According to Martel, "when the Pope dismissed the allegations, his entourage indicated to me that 'Francis was initially informed by Viganò that Cardinal McCarrick had had homosexual relations with over-age seminarians, which was not enough to condemn him.'"[91]

Removal from ministry and resignation as cardinal[edit]

On June 20, 2018, Cardinal McCarrick was removed from public ministry by the Holy See after a review board of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York found an allegation "credible and substantiated" that he had sexually abused a 16-year-old altar boy while a priest in New York.[92] Patrick Noaker, the attorney for the anonymous complainant, alleged two incidents at St. Patrick's Cathedral, one in 1971 and the other in 1972.[93] Noaker stated that when measuring the teen for a cassock, McCarrick "unzipped [the boy's] pants and put his hands in the boy's pants."[94]

McCarrick stated that he was innocent of these charges: "I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence." He also stated, "In obedience I accept the decision of The Holy See, that I no longer exercise any public ministry."[94][95] Also on June 20, 2018, Cardinal Tobin revealed that during McCarrick's ministry in New Jersey, there had been accusations of sexual misconduct with three adults, and that two of the allegations had resulted in confidential financial settlements with the complainants.[96][97]

On July 5, Fordham University rescinded an honorary degree and other honors it had granted Cardinal McCarrick.[98][99][100] The Catholic University of America, where McCarrick earned two degrees and served in a variety of spiritual and administrative positions, revoked the honorary degree it awarded him in 2006.[101]

On July 16, 2018, The New York Times published a front-page article describing McCarrick's abuse of adult seminarians.[1][102] On July 19, The New York Times published an article based on the story of a man named James, whose last name was withheld. A New Jersey man whose uncle had known McCarrick since high school, James alleged that McCarrick had sexually abused him beginning at age 11. James had been the first boy McCarrick had ever baptized. James claimed that McCarrick had exposed himself to him when he was 11 and had sexually touched him beginning when he was 13. He explained that he tried to tell his father a couple of years later but was not believed.[103][104] On November 13, James revealed himself as James Grein, and gave a public speech at the 'Silence Stops Now Rally" in Baltimore, where he called on Catholics to "reform and reclaim the Church." Speaking about alleged mishandling of allegations by Catholic bishops, he said, "Our bishops must know that the jig is up."[105]

On July 27, 2018, Pope Francis ordered McCarrick to observe "a life of prayer and penance in seclusion" and accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals.[106] McCarrick became the first person to resign from the College of Cardinals since Louis Billot, a French prelate, resigned in 1927 when he refused an order to withdraw his support of Action Française, a monarchist movement that Pope Pius XI had condemned.[107] He is also the first cardinal to resign following allegations of sexual abuse.[51] The Pope took this action before the accusations were investigated by church officials, the first time an order of penance and prayer has been issued before a church trial.[108] McCarrick was not laicized (removed from the priesthood) pending the completion of a canonical trial.[51] The Vatican announced on July 28, 2018, that Pope Francis had ordered Archbishop McCarrick (as he then became known) to obey an "obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him" and also observe "a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial."[109]

On January 5, 2019, it was reported that the Vatican was investigating a third allegation of sexual misconduct by McCarrick against a minor. The individual was said to have reported his allegations three months previously. He is now in his 40s, and is said to have been connected to McCarrick through family friends. The allegation is being investigated by the Archdiocese of New York.[110]

On September 10, 2018, the Council of Cardinals expressed support for Pope Francis and issued a joint statement stating the Holy See "is working on formulating potential and necessary clarifications".[111]

Vatican trial and sentence[edit]

In September 2018, Archbishop McCarrick, as he then was, was living at the St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary in Victoria, Kansas.[112][113] Pope Francis had sentenced McCarrick to serve a life of prayer and penance at this location pending the completion of a canonical process against him. He remained prohibited from engaging in any public ministry. The Diocese of Salina, where the friary is located, did not incur any of the costs for housing McCarrick.[113]

In February 2019, the Catholic News Agency reported that it had learned that McCarrick had not taken a salary or a pension from any of the three dioceses at which he was stationed, but had his own private income. It said that McCarrick was well known for personally making large donations towards charities and projects. During visits to the Vatican, he would often hand out sums of money to other Church leaders as gifts. These were frequently accepted. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Metuchen confirmed that McCarrick had never received a pension from the diocese but would not comment on whether or not he had taken a salary.[114]

On October 6, Pope Francis authorized the Vatican archives to conduct a "thorough study" to answer how McCarrick managed to rise in church ranks despite reports that he had slept with not only seminarians, but also young priests.[115]


On February 16, 2019, the Vatican announced that McCarrick had been laicized.[16] The Congress of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF),[116] in a church penal process, found McCarrick 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."[116] The guilty verdict was issued by the CDF on January 11, 2019, and McCarrick appealed.[116][16] The CDF rejected the appeal on February 13 and McCarrick was notified on February 15.[116][117] Pope Francis "recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law, rendering it a res iudicata (i.e., admitting of no further recourse),"[116][118] meaning it is final and McCarrick has no further opportunity to appeal.[16] The CDF used an expedited judicial process designed for cases in which evidence is overwhelming. McCarrick's ordination as a priest cannot be undone according to sacramental theology, but McCarrick cannot licitly perform any priestly duties, including celebrating Mass, although he may administer the sacrament of Penance to a penitent in danger of death; McCarrick can be stripped of the right to financial support from the church;[119] and his laicization is permanent.[17][117] McCarrick is the most senior church official in modern times to be laicized.[16]

McCarrick will continue living at the St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, Kansas, "until a decision of permanent residence is finalized" according to the Diocese of Salina.[120]

Honorary degrees[edit]

McCarrick was awarded at least 35 honorary degrees,[121] many of which have now been revoked or are currently under consideration for revocation.[122][123]

Location Date School Degree Status
 New York 1967 College of Mount Saint Vincent Doctor of Laws [124] rescinded[123]
 New York June 1974 St. John's University Doctor of Humane Letters[125] rescinded[123]
 Maryland May 16, 1987 Mount St. Mary's College Doctorate[126]
 New Jersey May 17, 1987 Felician College Doctor of Humane Letters[127]
 Rhode Island May 18, 1987 Providence College Doctor of Divinity[128] rescinded[123]
 New Jersey 1987 Saint Peter's College Doctorate[129][122] rescinded[130]
 New Jersey 1994 University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Doctor of Humane Letters (D.H.L.)[122]
 New York 2002 Fordham University Doctorate [98] rescinded[123]
 District of Columbia 2004 Georgetown University D.H.L.[131] rescinded[132]
 District of Columbia May 13, 2006 Catholic University of America D.H.L.[133] rescinded[123]
 New York May 20, 2006 Canisius College D.H.L. [134]
 Massachusetts May 21, 2006 Stonehill College Doctor of Humanities[135][136]
 New York 2007 Siena College Doctorate of Sacred Theology [137] rescinded[123]
 Indiana May 18, 2008 University of Notre Dame Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [138][139] rescinded[123][140]
 Oregon 2008 University of Portland Doctorate [141][142] rescinded[123]
 Pennsylvania 2008 Gannon University Doctor of Humane Letters[143]
 Montana September 14, 2009 Carroll College Doctorate[144]
 New York May 2011 St. Bonaventure University Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL) [145] rescinded[145]
 New York October 12, 2012 College of New Rochelle Doctorate [146] rescinded[123]
 Palestine November 3, 2013 Bethlehem University Doctor of Humanities[147]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
James Aloysius Hickey
Archbishop of Washington
November 21, 2000 – May 16, 2006
Succeeded by
Donald Wuerl
Preceded by
Peter Leo Gerety
Archbishop of Newark
May 30, 1986 – November 21, 2000
Succeeded by
John J. Myers
Preceded by
Lawrence Aloysius Burke, SJ
Ecclesiastical Superior of Turks and Caicos
October 17, 1998 – November 21, 2000
New title
First Bishop
Bishop of Metuchen
November 19, 1981 – May 30, 1986
Succeeded by
Edward Thomas Hughes
Preceded by
Léon Théobald Delaere, O.F.M. Cap
Titular Bishop of Rusibisir
June 29, 1977 – November 19, 1981
Succeeded by
Ivan Dias
Preceded by
Bernardino Echeverría Ruiz
Cardinal-Priest of Santi Nereo e Achilleo
February 21, 2001 – July 28, 2018