Pope Francis has defrocked 88-year-old former American cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who is accused of abusing at least one teenager more than half a century ago, the Vatican said in a statement on Saturday. This is the first time in the history of the Catholic Church that a cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse.
The former cardinal was found guilty of violating one of the divine commandments “with the aggravating circumstance of the abuse of power,” according to the Papal statement. Pope Francis sent a “clear signal” that sexual abuse would no longer be tolerated in the Catholic Church, said the president of the conference of American bishops on Saturday.
The verdict, which comes with no right of appeal comes before a crucial gathering of the presidents of episcopal conferences around the world in the Vatican from 21 to 24 February.
The series of revelations in 2018 of huge scandals in the United States , Chile and Germany has seriously tainted the credibility of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis, who intends to implement his promise of “zero tolerance”, promised in recent months that he would be uncompromising with the high ecclesiastical hierarchy.
The former archbishop emeritus of Washington had already been banned in July from exercising his ministry, and then renounced his honorary title of cardinal.
To be defrocked is considered the most serious punishment for a clergyman, depriving him of all his rights and prerogatives, such as saying mass, including in private. Cardinal McCarrick, a priest who was promoted to Bishop and Archbishop in the Archdiocese of New York before leaving for Washington in 2001, was one of the most prominent American Cardinals abroad. He has been influential for a long time in raising American funds for the Holy See.
Although officially retired, he continued to travel, including to defend human rights issues. He had been at the forefront of demanding reforms to crack down on pedophile priests in the United States.