Defrocked Catholic Cardinal Faces Second Sex Assault Charge

— Theodore E. McCarrick, expelled by Pope Francis in 2019, was already facing prosecution in Massachusetts. Now, Wisconsin is charging him with assault.

Theodore E. McCarrick, center, at his arraignment in Massachusetts in 2021 on charges that he sexually assaulted a teenage boy during a wedding reception at Wellesley College in 1974.


Theodore E. McCarrick, the former Roman Catholic cardinal expelled by Pope Francis in 2019, was charged on Monday with fourth-degree sexual assault in Wisconsin. It was the second criminal complaint against a man who was once one of the most high-profile clerics in the American Catholic Church.

Mr. McCarrick, now 92, is the first and only cardinal to be criminally charged in the sprawling sex abuse scandal that has consumed the church. Thousands of victims and abusers have been identified in parishes across the nation, with accusations from decades ago still being revealed in ongoing investigations.

Resulting lawsuits have pushed some dioceses to file for bankruptcy. Yet relatively few criminal charges have resulted, largely because the statute of limitations has expired, though some states are changing laws to allow for civil cases to proceed.

The new charge against Mr. McCarrick stems from an accusation dating back to 1977. According to the criminal complaint, Mr. McCarrick assaulted a 19-year-old that year at a home on Geneva Lake in southern Wisconsin, where they were both guests. Prosecutors say the victim was swimming off a dock when Mr. McCarrick and another adult man entered the water and fondled his genitals without his consent.

The complaint states that the victim, who is unnamed, also said Mr. McCarrick sexually assaulted him on numerous other occasions and in other states, first exposing himself to the victim when he was 11. The victim, now in his 60s, claims that Mr. McCarrick would take him “to a special event or lavish party and then sexually assault” him, including one event where multiple adult men had sex with him.

Mr. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., also faces charges in Massachusetts over an accusation that he sexually assaulted a teenage boy at a wedding reception at Wellesley College in 1974.

Mr. McCarrick pleaded not guilty in 2021 in that case to three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person age 14 and older. In February, his lawyers asked a judge to dismiss the case against him, saying he was not mentally competent to face trial because he had dementia.

A lawyer for Mr. McCarrick, Barry Coburn, said he had no comment on the new charge or on the ongoing prosecution in Massachusetts.

Mr. McCarrick was last known to be living in Missouri. The new complaint lists his address as a seminary in Maryland.

Two decades since the Catholic Church abuse scandal exploded into public view after an investigation published by The Boston Globe, the many subpoenas and investigations from attorneys general offices have produced only a handful of criminal charges. The Massachusetts case was able to proceed because Mr. McCarrick was not a resident of Massachusetts at the time of the alleged abuse there. The clock on the statute of limitations stopped once he left the state, meaning it did not expire as it would have if he were a resident.

The Wisconsin case follows the same playbook. The criminal complaint notes that Mr. McCarrick was not a resident of the state at the time of the alleged assault.

Mr. McCarrick was once one of the most prominent clerics in the U.S. Catholic Church. Born and ordained in New York, he rose steadily through the ranks, becoming an auxiliary bishop of New York in 1977, the same year as the Wisconsin case. He was named archbishop of Washington in 2001 and was a prolific fund-raiser for the Vatican, rubbing elbows with presidents and celebrities.

Cardinals hold the second-highest position in the church after the pope.

Mr. McCarrick was removed from ministry in 2018 after a church investigation found that he had been credibly accused of sexually abusing a 16-year-old altar boy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan in 1971. After a Vatican trial, Mr. McCarrick was removed from the priesthood in 2019.

But some church officials had been warned about his predatory behavior for decades. A New York Times investigation in 2018 revealed settlements paid to men who had complained about Mr. McCarrick when he was a bishop in New Jersey in the 1980s. Leaders were warned repeatedly about accusations of sexual harassment including the inappropriate touching of adult seminarians.

The new charge in Wisconsin stems from a report made to the Clergy and Faith Leader Abuse initiative, which the state’s Justice Department started two years ago.

“Thank you to the brave survivors who have made reports,” Josh Kaul, the attorney general of Wisconsin, said in a statement encouraging other victims to come forward with their stories.

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