A well-known cardinal from the Roman Catholic church has been removed from his position after an investigation into allegations that he sexually abused a teenager 47 years ago.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, 87, formerly served as the archbishop of Washington, but 47 years ago he was a priest in New York where he allegedly abused a 16-year-old boy. The man who made the allegations is now a 62-year-old businessman. McCarrick's accuser wishes to remain anonymous.
The abuse began in 1971 when the victim had just recently turned 16. He was a student at a Manhattan seminary school and was studying to become a priest. He was chosen to serve at the Christmas Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
In order to participate in the mass, he needed a special cassock, the traditional clothing for clergy. The victim needed to be measured for the garment, and so he went to the cathedral. McCarrick, then a secretary to the cardinal, did the measuring.
The victim's lawyer has stated that McCarrick, "under the guise of measuring his inseam, unzipped his pants, and sexually assaulted him. The kid had just turned 16, and kind of pulled back, and McCarrick was a little surprised by that."
According to the victim's lawyer, Patrick Noaker, McCarrick then said, "Let's just not tell anyone about this."
Over the following year McCarrick continued to harass the young man, until the time came for the Christmas Mass of 1972. Then McCarrick cornered the victim in a bathroom where, "He just came in, grabbed him, shoved his hand into his pants and tried to get his hand into his underwear, the kid had to struggle to push him away," Noaker said.
McCarrick has denied the allegations, saying, "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."
Despite denying the allegations, McCarrick stated that he cooperated with the process and would accept the Vatican's decision for him to step down.
In the 1980's and 90's, McCarrick served the church in New Jersey. On Wednesday of this week, the Archdiocese of Newark, released a statement saying that it and the Diocese of Metuchen in New Jersey had received "three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago." The allegations had all been directed at McCarrick.
Robert Hoatson, who runs Road to Recovery, an organization that helps victims of abuse by clergy, but once served as a New Jersey priest, said that McCarrick's sexual attraction to young men was known to officials of the Archdiocese of Newark in the 1990's.
Another former priest, Richard Sipe, said in an interview that while working as a professor at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore in the 1980's he first heard reports from young men who reported McCarrick's behavior. Over the years, Sipe said that he collected dozens of testimonies.
McCarrick will not face criminal charges in New York, as the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse charges prevent victims from pressing charges after they turn 23. Many advocates want that changed, and more time given to victims since they often need years, or decades, to confront their abuser.
Many people within Washington's Catholic community were shocked by the news this week. John Gehring, a Catholic author who worked for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during McCarrick's tenure in D.C. said, "It's especially painful for social justice Catholics. He became this public figure."
Gehring said something else that I firmly agree with. "This underscores the cancer of clergy abuse," he said. The church has given me plenty of material to write about in regards to sexual abuse over the year and a half since I started this blog.
While I think the church itself is a cancer, sexual abuse committed by the clergy is certainly one of its most insidious aspects. I hope that the victim of McCarrick is able to gain some form of closure now, having made these accusations known and revealing McCarrick for who he really is.