Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of sexual abuse, in an arraignment in a Massachusetts court. It was the first time McCarrick has appeared in public in years.
The charges stemmed from the 1970s, when then-Fr. McCarrick allegedly sexually molested a teenager on several occasions, including at a 1974 wedding reception in Wellesley, Massachusetts, when the boy was 16. McCarrick has avoided charges in other cases because statutes of limitations made cases difficult to pursue. But under Massachusetts law, if an accused person is not a state resident, the clock stops on the statute of limitations once he is not in the state.
The accuser, who is now in his 60s and is not named in media reports, was present at the arraignment. The Washington Post reported that he is part of a large Catholic family whose parents and grandparents were close to McCarrick. “He was baptized by McCarrick and alleges he was later abused for more than a decade,” the Post said.
Bail was set at $5,000, and McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, was ordered to hand over his passport and stay away from anyone under 18, as well as the accuser.
As McCarrick arrived at Dedham District Court, a man could be heard yelling “Shame on you!” McCarrick, 91, entered the courthouse in the Boston suburb Friday morning wearing a brown knit shirt and gray jacket, and walked with the aid of a walker.
The judge set a hearing date of October 28. McCarrick lives at the Vianney Renewal Center, a treatment facility in Dittmer, Missouri.
Each charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and the requirement to register as a sex offender.
McCarrick faces more legal woes, as two lawsuits were filed this week, one by a priest alleging the then-archbishop sexually assaulted him, and another by an anonymous former employee of the Archdiocese of Newark alleging that McCarrick “engaged in unpermitted sexual contact” with the employee at Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Both assaults were alleged to have occurred in 1991.
For years, rumors had swirled about McCarrick’s practice of inviting seminarians to share his bed at a New Jersey beach house, while he was Archbishop of Newark. In 2017, the Archdiocese of New York, where he was ordained a priest in 1958, received the first accusation against McCarrick of sexual abuse of a minor. After an investigation, the accusation was found credible in 2018, which led the Vatican to permanently bar McCarrick from public ministry.
Pope Francis dismissed McCarrick from the clerical state in 2019, after the Vatican found him 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 has consistently denied the rumors and allegations.