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Former U.S. Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy nearly 50 years ago, court documents show.
McCarrick, who was defrocked by the Vatican in 2019 over sexual abuse allegations, was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14, according to The Boston Globe.
The 91-year-old former archbishop of Washington, D.C., was charged with assaulting a teenager during a wedding reception in Massachusetts in 1974.
The complaint was filed by Wellesley Police in Dedham District Court.
McCarrick, once one of the country’s most influential Catholic leaders, rose to the top of the Catholic Church in the U.S. after he was ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York in 1958.
He is the first cardinal to ever be criminally charged with sexually assaulting a minor, a lawyer representing the man alleging the abuse told The Associated Press.
“It takes an enormous amount of courage for a sexual abuse victim to report having been sexually abused to investigators and proceed through the criminal process,” Mitchell Garabedian said. “Let the facts be presented, the law applied, and a fair verdict rendered.”
In January the man told authorities that during his brother’s wedding reception at Wellesley College in June 1974, McCarrick told him that his father wanted the two to have a conversation because the then-16-year-old was “being mischievous at home and not attending church.”
The two went for a walk around campus, when McCarrick groped him, according to report.
The man also alleges that when they returned to the reception, McCarrick took him into a small room where he fondled his genitals while “saying prayers to make me feel holy.”
In 2018, McCarrick was removed from public ministry, over allegations that he had sexually abused an altar boy in New York.
In February 2019, Pope Francis confirmed the removal from the priesthood of McCarrick, who was then 88, after a panel of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty on Jan. 11.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, the Vatican announced its decision saying that McCarrick was guilty of “solicitation in the sacrament of confession and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”
McCarrick appealed the decision, but the appeal was rejected.
In November 2020, an explosive 449-page report found that the late Pope John Paul II knew about sexual misconduct allegations against McCarrick years before he was removed from priesthood.
The unprecedented investigation, which took two years to complete, also found that the late pontiff, as well as high-ranking church officials, helped to dismiss or downplay sexual abuse charges against McCarrick.
The report also suggested that John Paul II could have been blinded by his previous friendship with the ex-cardinal.
“Though there is no direct evidence, it appears likely from the information obtained that John Paul II’s past experience in Poland regarding the use of spurious allegations against bishops to degrade the standing of the Church played a role in his willingness to believe McCarrick’s denials,” according to a summary of the report.
McCarrick, who now lives in Missouri, was summoned to appear in court for arraignment on Sept. 3.
His attorney, Barry Coburn, declined to comment, but said that “we will look forward to addressing this issue in the courtroom,” according to The Boston Globe.