National News

Pope Accepts McCarrick’s Resignation As Cardinal

By Christopher White and Ines San Martin

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, is pictured in a 2017 photo. (Photo: Catholic News Service/Bob Roller)

ROME/NEW YORK – After a month of mounting allegations of sexual abuse against American Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Pope Francis has accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals.

The retired archbishop of Washington, D.C. – who was one of the most prominent faces in the American Catholic hierarchy – has been ordered to remain in a house “to be indicated” until the accusations against him are examined.

“Yesterday evening the Holy Father received the letter in which Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington (U.S.A.), presented his resignation as a member of the College of Cardinals,” said a statement released on Saturday by the Vatican’s press office.

Life of Prayer, Penance

The statement continued to say that Pope Francis accepted Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation from the cardinalate and “has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.”

The pope’s decision comes over a month after the Archdiocese of New York announced that allegations of sexual abuse against Cardinal McCarrick had been deemed “credible and substantiated,” following an investigation by an archdiocesan review board.

The victim was a 16-year-old altar boy who accused Cardinal McCarrick of abusing him at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1971 and 1972, while he was still a priest for the archdiocese of New York.

Following those revelations, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin ordered Cardinal McCarrick to no longer exercise public ministry.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark then revealed that during his time as a bishop in New Jersey, there had been several accusations of sexual misconduct against Cardinal McCarrick from three adults.

While two of the cases ended in financial settlements that included non-disclosure agreements, Cardinal Tobin said that the victims were then released from those terms and were free to speak out.

Allegations Going Back 50 Years

Since then, allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of several young men going back at least five decades have been revealed, including one who claims he was abused by Cardinal McCarrick beginning at age 11.

At the height of the U.S. Church’s clerical abuse scandal in 2002, Cardinal McCarrick became one of the leading voices calling for reform.

He would serve as the architect of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” commonly known as the “Dallas Charter,” which established new safeguards for accountability and transparency in the Church’s protection of minors and was adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002.

Cardinal McCarrick, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1958, was named by Pope Paul VI as an auxiliary bishop of New York in 1977.

In 1981, Pope John Paul II appointed him as bishop of the newly created diocese of Metuchen, N.J., and less than five years later, in 1986, he was tapped to lead the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., where he catapulted into national prominence.

National Presence

For nearly three decades, he was a regular presence on Capitol Hill – testifying in front of congress for immigration reform, foreign aid and international religious freedom, leading the annual Youth Rallies for Life on the morning of the National March for Life against abortion every January. He was also known throughout the nation as an avid recruiter to the priesthood.

By the time he retired in 2006, he had ordained more new priests than any bishop in the country.

In retirement, Cardinal McCarrick remained a popular figure traveling the world on behalf of the U.S. bishops, the U.S. government, and the Vatican.

Although he did not participate in the conclave that elected Pope Francis in 2013, having already reached the age of 80 where cardinals are no longer able to do so, he was viewed by many as a confidant of the pope.

First Decision of Its Kind in US

The Holy Father’s decision comes after weeks of calls for the pope to strip Cardinal McCarrick of his membership in the College of Cardinals and is the first decision of its kind in the United States.

Though removed from the College of Cardinals, Cardinal McCarrick continues to be a priest.

However, his dismissal from the clerical state remains an option.

Given that, there remains the possibility that a sanction against Cardinal McCarrick could come after the canonical process announced in Saturday’s statement.

Following the Vatican’s announcement, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and president of the USSCB, issued a statement thanking Pope Francis for his actions.

“I thank the Holy Father for his leadership in taking this important step,” Cardinal DiNardo wrote.

“It reflects the priority the Holy Father places on the need for protection and care for all our people and the way failures in this area affect the life of the Church in the United States.”