International

Ex-Cardinal defrocked over sexual abuse

Theodore McCarrick, who resigned from Vatican’s College of Cardinals in July last year.  

Pope Francis has defrocked a former Cardinal in a first for the Roman Catholic church over accusations that American Theodore McCarrick sexually abused a teenager about 50 years ago, a Vatican statement said on Saturday.

Cardianl McCarrick, 88, who resigned from the Vatican’s College of Cardinals in July, is the first Cardinal ever to be defrocked for sex abuse.

He was found guilty in January by a Vatican court for sexually abusing a teenager, a decision confirmed by the Pope in February, with “no further recourse”, according to the statement. It said Cardinal McCarrick was guilty of “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power”.

The announcement marks a spectacular fall from grace for the once influential Cardinal and comes ahead of a Vatican conference from February 21-24 bringing together Bishops from around the world to discuss protecting children within the Church.

Sex abuse scandals around the globe, and most recently in the United States and Chile, have shaken the church, with Pope Francis promising a policy of “zero tolerance” even for high-ranking church members.

Barred from practising

Cardinal McCarrick was barred from practising as a priest in July last year, after which he resigned his honorary title of Cardinal. He currently lives in Kansas.

McCarrick was known for having sex with adult seminarians before he was accused of sexually abusing at least one teenager.

Prosecutors in the U.S. State of Pennsylvania last year found 300 priests were involved in child sexual abuse since the 1940s, crimes that were covered up by a string of bishops. Prosecutors in half a dozen other U.S. States have announced plans for similar investigations. The Pope accepted the resignations of several bishops in Chile last year after investigations revealed decades of sexual abuse by clergy in their dioceses.

In March 2015, Pope Francis allowed Keith O’Brien to keep the title of Cardinal after the former Bishop of Edinburgh and former leader of the Catholic church in Scotland resigned over allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour towards priests in the 1980s.

One precedent

The only previous case of a cardinal resigning came in 1927, when Pope Pius XI accepted the resignation of French cardinal Lois Billot, who had himself renounced his status for political reasons. Cardinals act as close papal advisers and can attend conclaves to elect new pontiffs if they are aged below 80. McCarrick had been one of the most prominent American cardinals active on the international stage.

Although officially retired, McCarrick had continued to travel abroad regularly, including on human rights issues.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 3:42:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/ex-cardinal-defrocked-over-sexual-abuse/article26293788.ece

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