Former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick has been charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy in Wellesley, Massachusetts, court documents show.
A criminal complaint issued Wednesday by the Dedham District Court charges Mr. McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, with three counts of “indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older.”
Each count carries a penalty of not more than five years in state prison and requires a convicted offender to register as a sex offender.
Barry Coburn, Mr. McCarrick’s District-based attorney, answered “no comment” when asked whether the defrocked cleric would attend an Aug. 26 hearing in the Massachusetts court. Mr. Coburn repeated an assertion that he and his client “look forward to addressing the case in the courtroom.”
According to court documents released to The Washington Times, Mr. McCarrick, 91, is charged with assaulting a 16-year-old boy at a wedding reception at Wellesley College on June 8, 1974.
At that time, Mr. McCarrick was a secretary to New York Archbishop Cardinal Terence Cooke and lived at the rectory associated with St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The accuser, whose name is redacted in the documents, said Mr. McCarrick fondled his penis during a walk on the college grounds and assaulted him again, this time orally, in a cloakroom at the reception. After the assault, the accuser said, Mr. McCarrick prayed over the naked boy “to make me feel holy.”
Changes to Massachusetts law passed in the wake of sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church allow Mr. McCarrick to be charged because the cleric was not a state resident at the time.
He is the first cardinal in the U.S. to be criminally charged in a sexual abuse case, The Associated Press reported. The Boston Globe first reported the charges Thursday morning.
“Of all the offending predators that we have exposed and have sued — armed with the courage of the survivors — the most powerful and predatory priest that we’ve ever encountered is former Cardinal Ted McCarrick,” said Jeff Anderson. The lawyer said he now represents five survivors suing the former cardinal for abuse.
“There is nobody more powerful, nobody more predatory, and nobody who exercised more access to more kids and vulnerable adults for a longer period of time than this guy. So contextually, this is the biggest scandal that I have ever encountered,” Mr. Anderson said in a telephone interview.
Mr. McCarrick served as the Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006. Pope Francis defrocked him in February 2019 after a Vatican investigation found he had sexually assaulted adults and children.
At the peak of his career, Mr. McCarrick was valued as a fundraiser and power broker in the Archdiocese of Washington. He undertook a mission to Poland for the Vatican in 1987, before the end of communist rule. The next year, he met with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
By 2000, Mr. McCarrick, then archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, was selected by Pope John Paul II for the Washington position. Mr. McCarrick became a cardinal shortly after the appointment. He resigned from the College of Cardinals in 2018 and was the first to resign over sexual abuse charges.
During his rise within the Catholic hierarchy, reports persisted that Mr. McCarrick was intimate with seminarians, young priests and others. Mr. McCarrick was accused of assaulting the men at a beach house in Sea Girt, New Jersey, purchased by the Archdiocese of Newark.
Years later, the archdiocese paid settlements to at least two men who had reported abuse by Mr. McCarrick.
“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,” communications director Maria Margiotta told The Times via email.
“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,” she said.
Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, told The Washington Times via email that the archdiocese “will not be commenting on the criminal charges brought against Theodore McCarrick. I can confirm that he was still a priest of this archdiocese in 1974,” when he was at the wedding reception in Massachusetts.
“We are elated that this serial predator is finally facing charges for the abuse he inflicted,” said Mike McDonnell, a spokesman for the victims group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. “We hope this news inspires others to come forward and report their abuse to law enforcement. We applaud the brave and courageous victims who have come forward.”