Ex-Cardinal Accused of Abuse Won't Stand Trial

Theodore McCarrick, 93, has dementia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 30, 2023 3:56 PM CDT
Ex-Cardinal, 93, Found Not Fit to Stand Trial
Former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick appears for an arraignment at Dedham District Court, Sept. 3, 2021, in Dedham, Mass.   (David L Ryan/The Boston Globe via AP, Pool, File)

The once-powerful Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick will not stand trial on charges he sexually assaulted a teenage boy decades ago, as a Massachusetts judge dismissed the case against the 93-year-old on Wednesday because both prosecutors and defense attorneys agree he suffers from dementia. McCarrick, the ex-archbishop of Washington, DC, was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after an internal Vatican investigation determined he sexually molested adults and children. The McCarrick scandal created a crisis of credibility for the church, primarily because there was evidence Vatican and US church leaders knew he slept with seminarians but turned a blind eye as McCarrick rose to the top of the US church as an adept fundraiser who advised three popes.

During Wednesday's hearing, Dr. Kerry Nelligan, a psychologist hired by the prosecution, said that she found significant deficits in McCarrick's memory during two interviews in June, and that he was often unable to recall what they had discussed from one hour to the next, the AP reports. As with any form of dementia, she said there are no medications that could improve the symptoms. "It's not just that he currently has these deficits," Nelligan said. "There is no way they are going to get better." Without being able to remember discussions, he could not participate with his lawyers in his defense, she said. McCarrick, who appeared via video link, did not speak during the hearing.

McCarrick has maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty in September 2021. He was also charged in April with sexually assaulting an 18-year-old man in Wisconsin more than 45 years ago. In Massachusetts, he was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14. He was not exempt from facing charges for abuse allegations that date back decades because the clock on the statute of limitations was paused once he left Massachusetts. The accuser told authorities during a 2021 interview that McCarrick was close to his family when he was growing up.

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Prosecutors say McCarrick committed the abuse over several years including when the boy, who was then 16, was at his brother's wedding reception at Wellesley College in 1974. Mitchell Garabedian, a leading lawyer for clergy sexual abuse victims who is representing the man accusing McCarrick, said in June that his client was discouraged by the prosecution's expert findings. "In spite of the criminal court's decision today," Garabedian said Wednesday, "many clergy sexual abuse victims feel as though former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is and will always be the permanent personification of evil within the Catholic Church."

(More Theodore McCarrick stories.)

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