Former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been charged with sexual assault, Massachusetts court records show, the first time that the defrocked priest has faced criminal prosecution after multiple claims of sexual abuse.
The Boston Globe, citing a criminal complaint, said McCarrick groped a 16-year-old boy during a wedding reception at Wellesley College in 1974.
McCarrick, 91, was expelled from the priesthood in 2019 after a Vatican investigation found him guilty of molesting both minors and adults.
A lengthy Vatican report released in November 2020 found that McCarrick had risen through the church's ranks despite persistent rumors of sexual misconduct, including a 2000 promotion to the position of archbishop of Washington, D.C., by Pope John Paul II.
McCarrick's attorney, Barry Coburn, told Reuters: “We look forward to addressing the case in the courtroom.”
The alleged victim's lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, who represents many church sexual abuse victims, said McCarrick is the highest-ranking U.S. church official to be charged in the United States with a sexual crime against a minor.
“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,” he said in an email.
McCarrick already faces several civil lawsuits from men who have accused him of sexual abuse decades ago, but the statute of limitations in those cases has expired, preventing criminal charges.
The Globe reported that the statute of limitations in the Massachusetts case stopped running when McCarrick left the state, however, because he was not a state resident.
The alleged victim told investigators that McCarrick, a family friend, began molesting him when he was a boy, the Globe said, citing a police report.
At the wedding of the alleged victim's brother on June 8, 1974, McCarrick told him his father wanted the two of them to have a talk about his misbehavior.
McCarrick then took him into a small room and fondled him while saying prayers, the Globe reported, citing the police report.
McCarrick, who currently lives in Missouri, is scheduled to be arraigned in Massachusetts on Aug. 26, the newspaper reported.