McCarrick laicized by Pope Francis

An administrative penal process conducted by the CDF 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.”

Then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington leaves a 2006 news conference. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered this week the laicization of Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop emeritus of Washington, and a once powerful figure in ecclesiastical, diplomatic, and political circles in the U.S. and around the world.

The decision followed an administrative penal process conducted by the CDF, which 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,” according to a Feb. 16 Vatican communique.

The conviction was made following an “administrative penal process,” which is a much-abbreviated penal mechanism used in cases in which the evidence is so clear that a full trial is unnecessary.

Because Pope Francis personally approved the guilty verdict and the penalty of laicization, it is formally impossible for the decision to be appealed.

According to a statement from the Vatican Feb. 16, the decree finding McCarrick guilty was issued Jan. 11 and followed by an appeal, which was rejected by the CDF Feb. 13.

McCarrick was notified of the decision Feb. 15 and Pope Francis “has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law, rendering it a res iudicata (i.e., admitting of no further recourse.)”

CNA contacted this week McCarrick’s canonical advocate, who declined to comment on the case.

McCarrick, 88, was publicly accused last year of sexually abusing at least two adolescent boys, and of engaging for decades in coercive sexual behavior toward priests and seminarians.

The allegations were first made public in June 2018, when the Archdiocese of New York reported that it had received a “credible” allegation that McCarrick sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s, while serving as a New York priest. The same month McCarrick stepped down from all public ministry at the direction of the Holy See.

In July, Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals, ordering McCarrick to a life of prayer and penance pending the completion of the canonical process concerning the allegations. Since the end of September, McCarrick has been residing at the St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary in Victoria, Kansas.

Key among McCarrick’s accusers is James Grein, who gave evidence before specially deputized archdiocesan officials in New York on Dec. 27.

As part of the CDF’s investigation, Grein testified that McCarrick, a family friend, sexually abused him over a period of years, beginning when he was 11 years old. He also alleged that McCarrick carried out some of the abuse during the sacrament of confession – itself a separate canonical crime that can lead to the penalty of laicization.

The CDF has also reportedly received evidence from an additional alleged victim of McCarrick – 13 at the time of the alleged abuse began – and from as many as 8 seminarian-victims in the New Jersey dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, where McCarrick previously served as bishop.

As emeritus Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and before that Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark, McCarrick occupied a place of prominence in the US Church.

He was also a leading participant in the development of the 2002 Dallas Charter and USCCB Essential Norms, which established procedures for handling allegations of sexual abuse concerning priests.

Though laicized, McCarrick does not cease to be a bishop, sacramentally speaking, since once conferred, the sacrament of ordination and episcopal consecration cannot be undone.

The penalty of reduction from the clerical state – often called laicization – prevents McCarrick from referring to himself or functioning as a priest, in public or private. Since ordination imparts a sacramental character, it cannot be undone by an act of the Church. But following laicization he is stripped of all the rights and privileges of a cleric including, in theory, the right to receive financial support from the Church.


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12 Comments

  1. Do you agree that this punishment fits the crime?…
    “In July, Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals, ordering McCarrick to a life of prayer and penance pending the completion of the canonical process concerning the allegations. Since the end of September, McCarrick has been residing at the St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary in Victoria, Kansas.” And, the real atrocity… “Though laicized, McCarrick does not cease to be a bishop, sacramentally speaking, since once conferred, the sacrament of ordination and episcopal consecration cannot be undone.” McCarricck’s real punishment will come if he is ever tried in a criminal court of law. Obviously not the Cannon appeasers. Disgraceful dogma!

  2. Has Mr McCarrick ever admitted or repented anything? He is not on record as doing so.
    He should be removed from that Kansas friary right now, today. He is living there gratis on the backs of those who contribute to the monks. He has his own money. If not, let him clean toilets somewhere far away.

        • For the record…McCarick earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Catholic University in the early 1960s, so he should be referred to as “Dr”. And as far as his “cleaning toilets,” may I suggest you review Para. 1934 of the Catechism: “Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity.” That applies to ALL–even sinful prelates who have done terrible, even heinous things.

          • 1. According to Miss Manners, the only people who should be called “Dr.” are physicians.

            2. Why do you consider cleaning toilets such an insult to human dignity? I was on the cleaning staff when I was at college, and while my particular assignment didn’t involve the bathrooms, if it had it would have been just as dignified as cleaning anywhere else – or as getting my degree.

  3. There is dignity in all honest labor to include the cleaning of toilets. My issue was with the spirit of vengeance that I perceived in Ranger01’s comment. I defend my admonition.

  4. They probably won’t keep this up but here goes” It’s now official – he’s nothing but a dirty old man.

    And that’s sad.

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