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DC's Cardinal McCarrick removed from ministry after 'credible' sexual abuse allegations

FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2015 file photo, Pope Francis reaches out to hug Cardinal Archbishop emeritus Theodore McCarrick after the Midday Prayer of the Divine with more than 300 U.S. Bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. The retired archbishop of Washington, D.C. has been removed from public ministry over allegations he sexually abused a teenager while a priest in New York more than 40 years ago. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via AP, Pool, File)

NEW YORK (AP) -- The retired Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, D.C., whose sexual misconduct with adults led to previously undisclosed legal settlements, has been removed from public ministry and faces further punishment over a "credible" allegation that he sexually abused a teenager while a priest in New York more than 40 years ago.

Pope Francis ordered 87-year-old Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's removal, pending further action that could include expulsion from the priesthood, after the allegation was found to be "credible and substantiated." McCarrick is one of the highest-ranking U.S. church officials accused in a sexual abuse scandal that has seen thousands of priests implicated.

McCarrick, the Washington archbishop from 2000 to 2006, denied the allegation in a statement distributed through the church. He cooperated in the investigation and accepted the pope's decision, the church said.

"While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people," McCarrick said.

Separately, the Newark, New Jersey archdiocese, where McCarrick was a bishop and archbishop, said it was aware of three decades-old allegations against him involving sexual misconduct with adults -- no cases there involving minors -- and that two of them resulted in legal settlements.

Richard Sipe, a former priest turned clergy abuse expert, said seminarians and young priests complained to him about McCarrick in the 1970s and early 1980s and that he has since interviewed 12 men who alleged that McCarrick propositioned, harassed or had sex with them.

Sipe said he also reviewed settlement documents that detailed some alleged encounters, including one where a man said he "felt paralyzed" as McCarrick wrapped his legs around him and started to kiss and rub him.

McCarrick's statement did not address the allegations involving adults. The Washington Archdiocese did not immediately return a message seeking additional comment from him.

The church did not specify the year or nature of McCarrick's alleged abuse of the teenager, or the accuser's gender or age at the time. New York Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said the church was not being more specific "out of respect for the victim's privacy."

The church said it notified the authorities and hired outside investigators after learning of the allegation through its compensation program for victims of priest abuse. The Manhattan District Attorney's office said Wednesday that it investigated and determined a prosecution was barred by New York's statute of limitations.

The results of the church's investigation were forwarded to a review board of church figures and lay professionals that deemed the allegation credible and substantiated, the church said.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan said the New York archdiocese knew of no other such allegations against McCarrick, who was a priest in the city from 1958, when he was ordained, until 1981, when he became Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey.

McCarrick, known to be fluent in seven languages, was archbishop of Newark from 1986 until 2000 and was elevated to cardinal in 2001.

He participated in the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, presided over the graveside service for U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery in 2009, and celebrated Mass with Pope Francis during his 2015 visit to Washington.

Advocates for abuse victims said McCarrick also undermined efforts to expose abuse and hold perpetrators accountable by opposing an extended statute of limitations for such crimes and vowing not to comply if a law were passed requiring priests to report suspected child abuse.

McCarrick remains in Washington and is in frail health, the church said.

"The abuse of anyone who is vulnerable is both shameful and horrific," current Metuchen Bishop James Checchio said. "The abuse of a minor by a priest -- as is being reported in this case from New York -- is an abomination and sickens and saddens us all."

McCarrick released the following statement Wednesday:

Some months ago, I was advised by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, that an allegation of sexual abuse of a teenager from almost fifty-years ago had been made against me. At that time I was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.
While shocked by the report, and while maintaining my innocence, I considered it essential that the charges be reported to the police, thoroughly investigated by an independent agency, and given to the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York. I fully cooperated in the process.
My sadness was deepened when I was informed that the allegations had been determined credible and substantiated.
In obedience I accept the decision of The Holy See, that I no longer exercise any public ministry.
I realize this painful development will shock my many friends, family members, and people I have been honored to serve in my sixty-years as a priest.
While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.

The Archdiocese of Washington released a statement on McCarrick.

Sometime ago, an allegation that falls under the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was made against Cardinal McCarrick when he served as a priest in the Archdiocese of New York.
The Holy See, which has exclusive authority in the oversight of a cardinal, delegated Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York to investigate the allegation, engaging the review board of the Archdiocese of New York.
In the end the review board found the allegations credible and substantiated.
The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, at the direction of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has instructed Cardinal McCarrick that he is to refrain from any public ministry or activity until a definite decision is made.
Cardinal McCarrick, while maintaining his innocence, has accepted the decision.
While saddened and shocked, this archdiocese awaits the final outcome of the canonical process and in the meantime asks for prayers for all involved.
At the same time, we renew our commitment to care for the victims who have suffered abuse, to prevent abuse before it occurs, and to identify and report child abuse once it has happened.

A statement on the allegation was also made by the Archdiocese of New York.

The Archdiocese of New York, along with every other diocese in the country, has long encouraged those who as minors suffered sexual abuse by a priest to come forward with such reports.
As he himself announced earlier this morning, a report has come to the archdiocese alleging abuse from almost forty-five years ago by the now retired Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who, at the time of the reported offense was a priest here in the Archdiocese of New York. This was the first such report of a violation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People ever made against him of which the archdiocese was aware.
Carefully following the process detailed by the Charter of the American bishops, this allegation was turned over to law enforcement officials, and was then thoroughly investigated by an independent forensic agency. Cardinal McCarrick was advised of the charge, and, while maintaining his innocence, fully cooperated in the investigation. The Holy See was alerted as well, and encouraged us to continue the process.
Again according to our public protocol, the results of the investigation were then given to the Archdiocesan Review Board, a seasoned group of professionals including jurists, law enforcement experts, parents, psychologists, a priest, and a religious sister.
The review board found the allegations credible and substantiated.
The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, at the direction of Pope Francis, has instructed Cardinal McCarrick that he is no longer to exercise publicly his priestly ministry.
Cardinal McCarrick, while maintaining his innocence, has accepted the decision.
This archdiocese, while saddened and shocked, asks prayers for all involved, and renews its apology to all victims abused by priests. We also thank the victim for courage in coming forward and participating in our Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, as we hope this can bring a sense of resolution and fairness.


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