Cardinal Donald Wuerl may have forgotten about sexual abuse allegations against his predecessor, but Pope Francis didn't. The New York Times reports that word has been handed down from the top: Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal of Washington, DC, has been defrocked. "The Holy Father has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law," the Vatican said in a statement, citing "sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power." The Vatican also noted that the 88-year-old's appeal on the matter had been nixed. McCarrick, who served as DC's archbishop from 2001 to 2006, resigned as a cardinal in July and is said to now be residing at a Kansas monastery, the BBC reports.
McCarrick had relinquished his robes after an investigation by the Archdiocese of New York had found that allegations he'd sexually abused a teen in the '70s were credible; there were other sexual abuse allegations against him as well. The Times notes it looks to be the first time a US cardinal or bishop has been expelled, and the first time a cardinal anywhere has seen such a fate for sexual abuse allegations, even though hundreds of priests have been defrocked. One Catholic University of America professor calls the move "almost revolutionary." "Bishops and former cardinals are no longer immune to punishment," says Kurt Martens. "The reverence that was shown in the past to bishops no longer applies." (A new book describes a big gay subculture within the Vatican.)