NEW YORK – The former Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, D. C., is removed from the 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 charges against 87-year-old Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to are credible and substantiated,” the church said. Pope Francis ordered McCarrick’s removal pending further action may include orders to live a life of penance or removal of the priesthood.
McCarrick, the Washington archbishop from 2000 to 2006, denied the accusation. He also worked on the research and the pope’s decision, the church said.
“While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse and my belief in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain that the person making the charges has gone through,” McCarrick said in a statement distributed by the church.
The church did not specify the year or the nature of the alleged abuse, or the accuser of the age at the time. New York Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said the church was not more specifically “out of respect for the victim’s privacy.”
The church said that it notified the authorities and hired outside investigators after learning of the complaint by the compensation program for the victims of the priest abuse.
The results of the investigation were forwarded to a review board of the church figures of laymen and professionals who deemed the allegation credible and substantiated, the church said.
McCarrick was a priest in New York in 1958, when he was ordained, until 1981, when he became Bishop of Metuchen of New Jersey. Cardinal Timothy Dolan said the New York archdiocese knew of no other such accusations against McCarrick.
The Newark, N. J., archdiocese, said that there are no accusations against him of abuse involving a minor, but those two allegations of sexual misconduct decades ago, where the adults were.
“The abuse of someone who is vulnerable, both shameful and horrible,” Metuchen Bishop James Checchio said. “The abuse of a minor by a priest — as reported in this case of New York — is an abomination and sick, and saddens all of us.”
McCarrick, known for fluency in seven languages, was elevated to cardinal in 2001.
He participated in the conclave of 2005 that elected Pope Benedict XVI, in charge of the grave service for the U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery in 2009, and the Mass with Pope Francis during his 2015 visit to Washington.
He remains in Washington and in poor health, the church said.
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