(from New York) The news came as a thunder and left priests and devotees shocked and speechless: cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Newark in New Jersey and Washington, left public ministry at the demand of the Holy See, having been charged with sexually abusing a teenager about 45 years ago. The cardinal, who is now ninety years old and retired, says he is “upset at the report” and, though he pleads not guilty, he complied with the request not to engage in any public ministry. A few months ago, when he had been informed by Timothy Dolan, cardinal of New York, that he had been accused of sex abuse, McCarrick had fully cooperated with the proceedings, thinking it was “essential that the allegations should be reported to police, thoroughly investigated by an independent agency and sent to the Review Committee of the archdiocese of New York”. Such abuse seems to have been committed when the cardinal was a young priest of a parish church in the diocese of New York, but no details have been provided. Appointed by the Holy See to supervise the investigation, Dolan followed the procedure laid down by the “US Bishops’ Document”, whereby the allegations must be sent to police officers. The investigation was conducted by an independent legal firm, which then sent the results to the diocesan expert committee that judged such charges as “believable and grounded”. “This painful development will upset many of my friends, relatives and the people that I have been honoured to serve in my sixty years as a priest”, said McCarrick, who expressed sorrow for the pain suffered by the victim and by all of God’s people hurt by such scandal.
Daniel DiNardo, president of the US Bishops Conference, stated that “the solemn promise of protecting children and young people from any evil will not be unmet and will apply to all the people who work within the Church, regardless of their high rank or length of service”. DiNardo expressed gratitude to Dolan for conducting the proceedings “with justice and with clear compassion for the victims”, and he “very sadly” apologised to those who experienced the trauma of abuse “and were damaged by a church minister”. The archdiocese of Washington stated that, “though saddened and shocked, it will be waiting for the final result of the canon proceedings and at the same time it asks for prayers for all the people involved, and says it will keep working to take care of the victims of the abuse and to find out who is guilty. Card. Joseph Tobin of Newark, the diocese of which McCarrick had been the archbishop for as many as 15 years, is aware of the wide range of feelings that the news awakened, especially in those “who have experienced the trauma of being sexually abused by a priest”. Tobin sent them his apologies, his prayers and his support, while stating that no child ever reported to have been abused by cardinal McCarrick, even if “this diocese and the diocese of Metuchen have received three reports of bad sexual behaviour towards adults”, two of which have been completely dismissed. Cardinal Tobin invited everyone, regardless of their deep bonds with McCarrick, to support the proceedings, which will lead to the victims being heard and the truth being established, and encouraged anyone who has been abused by a priest to come forward, as there will be effective cooperation with the public authorities as well. McCarrick was ordained priest in New York City in 1968 and he is the second cardinal to have been removed from public ministry.