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Former cardinal McCarrick found not competent to stand trial for sex abuse

A judge in Massachusetts declared defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick incompetent to face trail on sex abuse charges after a court-ordered examination found the former archbishop to have dementia.
David L. Ryan
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A judge in Massachusetts declared defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick incompetent to face trail on sex abuse charges after a court-ordered examination found the former archbishop to have dementia.

Theodore McCarrick was once a cardinal – one of the highest-ranking positions in the Roman Catholic Church. He was also the archbishop of Washington, D.C. And he's the only current or former U.S. cardinal to ever face sex abuse charges.

But now a judge in Massachusetts has dismissed a criminal case against McCarrick stemming from the alleged molestation of a 16-year-old boy there in 1974.

Two years ago, McCarrick pleaded not guilty.

The judge's move comes after examinations of the 93-year-old found that he has dementia.

In 2019, the church expelled McCarrick from the priesthood following an internal investigation that found multiple instances of sexual misconduct. Later, the Vatican issued a report saying that Pope John Paul II promoted him despite knowledge of sex abuse allegations.

McCarrick also faces a sexual assault charge in Wisconsin, stemming from an alleged incident there in 1977.

Prosecutors were able to bring criminal charges against McCarrick in both Massachusetts and Wisconsin decades after the alleged incidents took place because the law in those states freezes the statutes of limitation for non-residents who leave the state.

Many victims of clergy sex abuse that took place during their childhoods have only been able to seek legal recourse through civil cases rather than criminal charges.

A number of states in recent years have opened special "look back" windows in their statutes of limitation for sexual assault and harassment. That move was prompted by the #MeToo movement, but it also benefited survivors of clergy sex abuse.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jason DeRose is the Western Bureau Chief for NPR News, based at NPR West in Culver City. He edits news coverage from Member station reporters and freelancers in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii. DeRose also edits coverage of religion and LGBTQ issues for the National Desk.