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Cardinal McCarrick resigns from College of Cardinals

Former cardinal is accused of sexually abusing two minors and several former seminarians

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation from the College of Cardinals of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington. Archbishop McCarrick is pictured in a 2001 photo in Washington.
Photo Credits: Brendan McDermid | Reuters
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation from the College of Cardinals of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, and has ordered him to maintain “a life of prayer and penance” until a canonical trial examines accusations that he sexually abused minors.

The announcement came first from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a few minutes later from the Vatican press office.

The press office stated July 28 that the previous evening Pope Francis had received Archbishop McCarrick’s letter of “resignation as a member of the College of Cardinals.”

“Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the cardinalate and has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial,” according to the Vatican statement.

In late June, Archbishop McCarrick, the 88-year-old retired archbishop of Washington, said he would no longer exercise any public ministry “in obedience” to the Vatican after an allegation he abused a teenager 47 years ago in the Archdiocese of New York was found credible. The cardinal has said he is innocent.

In the weeks that followed the announcement, another man came forward claiming he was abused as a child by Archbishop McCarrick; several former seminarians have spoken out about being sexually harassed by the cardinal at a beach house he had.

Although rare, withdrawal from the College of Cardinals in such circumstances isn’t unheard of. Just 10 days before then-Pope Benedict XVI retired in 2013, Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien announced he wouldn’t participate in the conclave to elect Pope Benedict’s successor because he didn’t want media focused on him instead of the election.

A week after the conclave that elected Pope Francis, the Vatican announced the new pope accepted Cardinal O’Brien’s decision to renounce all “duties and privileges” associated with being a cardinal. He died March 19.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, thanked the pope for accepting Archbishop McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals. In a statement July 28, he wrote: “I thank the Holy Father for his leadership in taking this important step. It reflects the priority the Holy Father places on the need for protection and care for all our people and the way failures in this area affect the life of the Church in the United States.”

In New Jersey, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, an archdiocese that then-Archbishop McCarrick headed 1986-2000, stated July 28: “This latest news is a necessary step for the Church to hold itself accountable for sexual abuse and harassment perpetrated by its ministers, no matter their rank.”

Increased accountability urged by Church leaders

By Mark Pattison • Catholic News Service

Bp. Olson
WASHINGTON — The sexual abuse allegations surrounding now-former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick have prompted some Church figures to call for a more thorough reckoning of the U.S. Church’s clerical sexual abuse policies.

With his resignation July 28 from the College of Cardinals, Archbishop McCarrick retains the title of archbishop. However, “his prompt reduction canonically to the laity should be strongly deliberated,” according to a July 28 statement by Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth, Texas.

“The evil effects of these actions were multiplied by the fact that financial settlements were arranged with victims without transparency or restrictions on the former cardinal’s ministry,” Bishop Olson stated.

“Justice also requires that all of those in Church leadership who knew of the former cardinal’s alleged crimes and sexual misconduct and did nothing be held accountable for their refusal to act thereby enabling others to be hurt.”

“We can — and I am confident that we will — strengthen the rules and regulations and sanctions against any trying to fly under the radar or to

Bp. Scharfenberger
‘get away with’ such evil and destructive behaviors,” stated Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, N.Y., in a July 27 letter to clergy in his diocese. “But, at its heart, this is much more than a challenge of law enforcement; it is a profoundly spiritual crisis.”

“In negative terms, and as clearly and directly as I can repeat our Church teaching, it is a grave sin to be ‘sexually active’ outside of a real marriage covenant. A cardinal is not excused from what a layperson or another member of the clergy is not,” Bishop Scharfenberger wrote.

Bishop Scharfenberger stated, “Abuse of authority — in this case, with strong sexual overtones — with vulnerable persons is hardly less reprehensible than the sexual abuse of minors, which the USCCB (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) attempted to address in 2002. Unfortunately, at that time — something I never understood — the ‘Charter’ (‘for the Protection of Children and Young People’) did not go far enough so as to hold cardinals, archbishops and bishops equally, if not more, accountable than priests and deacons.”

He stated he believes the “vast majority of clergy — priests, deacons and bishops alike — live or, at least, are striving to live holy and admirable lifestyles. I am ashamed of those of my brothers, such as the cardinal, who do not and have not.”

John Carr
“As a father, I am appalled and angry. As a Catholic, I feel ashamed and betrayed,” according to a statement from John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, who had worked closely with Archbishop McCarrick on various

policy initiatives when Carr worked at USCCB headquarters in Washington.

“As a friend of former Cardinal McCarrick, I am devastated, especially for the victims and their families,” Carr added. “I pray that these horrific developments can help end this evil of clerical sex abuse and dismantle the culture that permitted it within our family of faith.”

Msgr. Owen Campion, former editor of the national newspaper Our Sunday Visitor and now chaplain of OSV Newsweekly, said he felt dismay, revulsion, heartsickness, anger and — for once — weariness upon learning of the accusations lodged against Archbishop McCarrick.

“I am weary of trying to make excuses, of trying to find something to say,” Msgr. Campion wrote July 18.

He added that he is tired of making the point that “sexual abuse is a vast problem in our culture” and not just limited to the clergy, because he is “assailed for concocting excuses.” “But I make it again,” he stated.

Msgr. Campion
Msgr. Campion stated, “One excuse that I have offered with increasing lack of enthusiasm is the Dallas ‘Charter,’ a policy created by U.S. bishops to right the wrongs. The charter, whether it is followed or not, spoke of children, but attention must also be given to the wide sexual abuse of


In Baltimore, Archbishop William E. Lori stated allegations against Archbishop McCarrick “have shaken our Church to its core.”

“That we find ourselves in this place again is tragic and heart wrenching — for the victims; for their families and friends; for all Catholics; and for our neighbors whom we are called to serve in truth and love,” he wrote in a statement July 30.

Building on the efforts of the pope and others “to strengthen the accountability of bishops,” Archbishop Lori stated, “some bishops in the United States are discussing proposals to do the same, (including) measures that can be implemented in each diocese to ensure that victims can easily report allegations of abuse by any member of the Church, including bishops, and can confidently expect that those allegations will get a full and

Abp. Lori
fair hearing.”

“I will contribute actively to those discussions and will fully implement their results in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to best protect those in our

local Catholic community and all those we serve,” he stated, pledging his “continued diligent oversight of the measures currently in place” and renewing his commitment “to do all I can to build a culture of accountability and transparency.”

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