Yesterday, the Vatican announced that Theodore McCarrick had been defrocked.
I wrote about McCarrick in June after he was initially removed from his position within the church. McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July.
McCarrick, who served as the Archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006, once served the Roman Catholic Church in New York early in his clerical career.
McCarrick has been accused of sexually abusing three children and harassing multiple adult members of the church. Unfortunately, all the accusations relate to events that happened decades ago, and so the statute of limitations in the jurisdictions where these crimes occurred has passed.
In June, when I wrote my initial post about McCarrick, I cited Richard Sipe, a former priest. Sipe said in an interview that while he worked as a professor at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore in the 1980's, he began collecting what amounted to dozens of testimonies from young men who reported McCarrick's behavior.
In the statement issued yesterday, the Vatican said that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued its final decree on McCarrick's case on January 11th. The congregation found McCarrick guilty of solicitation in confession and that he violated the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue with minors and adults. He was also found guilty of aggravated abuse of power.
McCarrick's punishment, which the Vatican's statement indicated was dismissal from the clerical state, was decided on Wednesday, and communicated to McCarrick on Friday.
Dismissal from the clerical state is profound, as it is a permanent removal, unlike excommunication, which is seen as more of a suspension while the accused continues to live in a sinful state.
Many still remember McCarrick as a Roman Catholic celebrity in the United States. He represented the Vatican, not just in the U.S., but abroad as well. In his role as cardinal, he was one of the most recognizable U.S. cardinals in the public eye.
This case contains many rare responses from the church (a cardinal resigning, a former cardinal being defrocked). As the Roman Catholic Church continues to face worldwide scrutiny and criticism, and is met with increasing outrage, over its rampant sexual abuse, and cover-up of that sexual abuse, we may see more of these measures taken against once prominent members of Catholic leadership.