Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington. The Pope has ordered him to retire to a “life of prayer and penance” following allegations that McCarrick sexually abused both minors and adult seminarians over the course of five decades. McCarrick has been ordered to stay in seclusion until the allegations against him have been fully investigated.

Cardinal McCarrick was removed from public ministry on the 20th of June 2018, after allegations that he had sexually abused a teenage altar boy almost 50 years ago in New York. McCarrick protested his innocence. The New York Times reports that the Roman Catholic Church paid settlements amounting to tens of thousands of dollars in 2005 and 2007 to complainants.

McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals is the first since 1927, and the very first to be attached to a sexual abuse scandal. Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh waived his rights as a cardinal in 2013, after accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior with junior clergy, but he remained a cardinal until his death in March 2018.

In April 2018, Cardinal George Pell of Australia, the Vatican’s finance chief, was ordered to stand trial on charges of sexual abuse. A month later, Philip Wilson, the archbishop of Adelaide, was convicted of covering up a sexual abuse claim in the 1970s. Five hundred priests were mentioned by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

In June, Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella, a former Vatican diplomat based in Washington, was sentencd to five years in prison by a Vatican court for possessing and distributing child pornography. It was the first time in modern history that a Vatican court had ruled in an abuse case.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, has said:

These cases require more than apologies. They raise up the fact that when charges are brought regarding a bishop or a cardinal, a major gap still exists in the church’s policies on sexual conduct and sexual abuse.

Since 2002, 6700 Catholic priests have been accused of sexually abusing children. Yet, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has yet to respond to calls for reform made in June.

Extensive information on abuse in the Catholic Church can be found at http://bishopaccountability.org/ The director of the site, Terence McKiernan, told the New York Times, “The officials responsible must be identified and disciplined, and the investigative files must be made public.”

McCarrick and other alleged abusers are often protected because the statute of limitation has expired on their crimes. The Open Minds Foundation is working alongside SCAARS (Stop Child Abuse – Advocates for Reform and Safety) in the US to abolish any statute of limitations on child abuse, and to reform the law. We also want those who have turned a blind eye to child abuse to be removed from office, and publicly named and shamed.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Jon’s new book? Do you have a story about sexual abuse in a church that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 


Drawn from this article in the NY Times

And Reuters.

For a discussion on clericalism and how it enables the sexual abuse of children, see our blogpost here.