Former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been defrocked by Pope Francis after Vatican officials found him guilty of sexual crimes against minors and adults, the Vatican said Saturday.
McCarrick was a powerful fundraiser in the church. He is the highest-ranking clergy to be laicized by the clerical state. The action strips McCarrick, 88, of priestly rights and bars him from celebrating Mass.
Hundreds of priests have been defrocked for sexual abuse, but laicizing someone of McCarrick's rank is an “almost revolutionary,” move for the church, Kurt Martens, a Catholic University of America canon law professor, told The New York Times.
In July 2018, Pope Francis accepted McCarrick's resignation amid the sex abuse scandal. McCarrick was a retired cardinal at the time and faced allegations of sexually abusing a minor nearly five decades ago when he was a priest in New York. He was also accused of engaging in sexual misconduct with adults while he served in New Jersey.
On Jan. 11, McCarrick — who had once served as the archbishop of Washington — was found guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power,” the Vatican said.
The Sixth Commandment addresses sexual behavior.
McCarrick had been embroiled in a scandal that included an apparent open secret that he slept with adult seminarians. He was also found guilty by the Vatican of soliciting for sex while hearing confession.
The sexual abuse of minors by priests and its systematic coverup has been a decades-long crisis for the church. McCarrick's defrocking comes days before Francis is set to lead an international gathering of bishops on the issue of sexual abuse among clergy.
An appeal by McCarrick was rejected and the Vatican said that the decision announced Saturday is final and no longer subject to future appeals.
Contributing: Teresa Lo, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vatican defrocks ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after finding him guilty of sexual crimes