NEW YORK (AP) — The retired Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, D.C., 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, the church said Wednesday.
The allegation against 87-year-old Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was found to be “credible and substantiated,” the church said. Pope Francis ordered McCarrick’s removal pending further action that could include orders to live a life of penance or removal from the priesthood.
McCarrick, the Washington archbishop from 2000 to 2006, denied the allegation. 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,” McCarrick said in a statement distributed through the church.
The church did not specify the year or nature of the alleged abuse, or the accuser’s 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 results of the investigation were forwarded to a review board of church figures and lay professionals that deemed the allegation credible and substantiated, the church said.
McCarrick was a priest in New York from 1958, when he was ordained, until 1981, when he became Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey. Cardinal Timothy Dolan said the New York archdiocese knew of no other such allegations against McCarrick.
The Newark, N.J., archdiocese said there were no allegations against him there of abuse involving a minor, but that two allegations of sexual misconduct decades ago involving adults were settled.
“The abuse of anyone who is vulnerable is both shameful and horrific,” 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, known for fluency in seven languages, 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.
He remains in Washington and is in frail health, the church said.
By Associated Press