Cardinal McCarrick Removed from Ministry After Sex Abuse Allegations

Commentary
By Jenna Barnett 6-21-2018
FILE PHOTO: Archbishop of Washington Theodore E. McCarrick during a Mass in Washington. Jan. 22, 2001. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files

The Vatican has decided to remove Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick from ministry after finding allegations that he sexually abused a minor to be “credible and substantiated.” Cardinal McCarrick is one of the most prominent Catholic leaders to ever face such accusations. He is the former Archbishop of Washington, but the abuse in question occurred during his time as a priest in New York 47 years ago.

According to a New York Times interview with the victim’s lawyer, Patrick Noaker, the victim — who wishes to remain anonymous — alleges that McCormick assaulted him on two occasions: first under the guise of measuring his inseam for a special cassock, and secondly and more aggressively, cornering him in a bathroom and forcefully shoving his hands down the teenager’s pants.

In a statement, the former archbishop of Washington says that he fully cooperated in the investigation of an independent agency and the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York, but maintains his innocence despite their findings.

“While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people,” the statement reads.

McCarrick cannot be criminally prosecuted because of the restrictions mandated in New York’s statute of limitations. The person bringing forward the allegations of abuse, chose not to come forward with his accusations until the archdiocese started the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program in 2016. According to the Archdiocese of New York, this program seeks to “promote healing and bring closure by providing compensation to victim-survivors of abuse by priests or deacons of the archdiocese.”

On the website, Timothy Cardinal Dolan goes on to explain, “We have been told, time and again, by victim-survivors that they are not principally interested in money, but instead are seeking some tangible sign of the Church’s desire for healing and reconciliation.”

These allegations come as a shock to many Catholics, not just because of the Cardinal’s prominence in the church and passion for international peace and human rights initiatives, but also because of the ways he fought abuse in the church during his tenure by supporting a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy for abusive priests and enacting mandatory reporting policies in Newark churches.

This calls to mind another prominent and recent alleged abuse case — that of former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who criminalized strangulation for the first time in his jurisdiction. Now multiple women have come forward alleging that Schneiderman hit, slapped, and choked them. In the same state, we have two devastating reminders that no one is above the laws — not even the laws and policies they fight to implement and enforce.

Jenna Barnett is the Women and Girls Campaign Coordinator for Sojourners.

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