The Vatican announced last Saturday that Pope Francis has expelled Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, from the priesthood after the church found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over the course of several decades.
McCarrick served as president of the board of trustees at Seton Hall and as Archbishop of Newark during the mid-’80s to early 2000s. According to NJ.com, McCarrick resigned as a cardinal in July 2018 after the allegations came to light.
Although the Vatican has expelled hundreds of priests for similar accusations, this is the first time a cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse, according to The New York Times.
Also according to The Times, “McCarrick was tried and found guilty of several crimes, including soliciting sex during confession and ‘sins’ with minors and with adults, ‘with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.’”
This move by the Vatican happens as the Catholic church continues to delve more seriously into dealing with the sexual abuse accusations leveled against their clergy members. In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury revealed the names of 300 priests credibly accused of sex abuse over a 70-year-period, as previously reported by The Setonian. In September, Seton Hall hired Newark law firm Gibbons P.C. to independently investigate sex abuse allegations that “may have involved seminarians” at both of their seminaries. In October, Pope Francis defrocked two retired Chilean bishops who were accused of sexually abusing children. Then in December, he removed two cardinals from his advisory council after they were implicated in sex abuse cases. Last week, New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses — Newark, Paterson, Metuchen, Trenton, and Camden — began releasing the names of priests who had been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. As of Feb. 13, the list has more than 188 names.
According to Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin’s statement on the Archdiocese of Newark’s website, McCarrick’s expulsion “impacts not only the Archdiocese of Newark but the entire Catholic community across the world.”
“It is profoundly disheartening and disturbing to know that a Church leader, who served and led our Archdiocese of Newark for 14 years, acted in a way that is contrary to the Christian way of life as well as his vocation as a priest of Jesus Christ,” the statement continues. “To all those abused by clergy, especially the victims of Theodore McCarrick, I continue to express my profound sadness and renew heartfelt apologies for the life-long suffering you have endured.”
Tobin also encouraged other victims of abuse by clergy members to “come forward, no matter how much time has passed.”
Seton Hall interim president Dr. Mary Meehan said that in light of this decision by Pope Francis, “Seton Hall University remains focused on our educational mission.”
“While we are greatly saddened and disturbed by what someone who was once affiliated with our institution 30 years ago in his role as Archbishop of Newark has done, we are unwavering in our commitment to maintaining a safe campus environment for all our students, seminarians, faculty and staff,” she said. “As a University community, we must pray for all victims of abuse and their families.”
Isabel Soisson can be reached at email@example.com. You can also find her on Twitter @IsabelSoisson.