Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked by The Vatican in 2019 over sex abuse allegations, is now facing criminal charges in Massachusetts for alleged sex abuse of a minor nearly 50 years ago, according to a court filing.
According to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday, McCarrick is charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14. The complaint was filed by Wellesley Police in Dedham District Court.
The Boston Globe was the first to report the charges.
The filing states that the unnamed victim told investigators via Zoom in January that McCarrick had been friends with a family member and outlined multiple incidents of alleged abuse by McCarrick, most of which took place outside of Massachusetts in New Jersey, New York and California. One incident took place in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in June 1974 at the victim’s brother’s wedding, where the victim said McCarrick allegedly pulled him aside and told him, “Your dad wants you to come with me and have a talk. You’re being mischievous at home and not attending church. We need to go outside and have a conversation,” according to the complaint.
The victim told investigators McCarrick told the victim to take down his pants and then held and “kissed” his genitalia “saying prayers to make me feel holy,” according to the complaint. After telling him to pull up his pants, McCarrick allegedly told the boy to say certain prayers “so God can redeem you of your sins.”
The complaint states that the victim told investigators that McCarrick repeatedly sexually abused him over the years, including when he was an adult, with abuse that also allegedly took place in nearby Newton, Massachusetts when he was older.
The criminal charges make McCarrick the highest-ranking Catholic official in the US to face criminal charges for sex abuse of a minor, according to the unnamed victim’s attorney, Mitchell Garabedian.
“Historically, this is the first time ever in the United States that a Cardinal has been criminally charged with a sexual crime against a minor,” Garabedian said in a news release. “It takes an enormous amount of courage for a sexual abuse victim to report having been sexually abused to investigators and proceed through the criminal process.”
Barry Coburn, an attorney for McCarrick, told CNN in a statement, “We are going to address this issue in the courtroom.”
McCarrick has maintained his innocence in the past regarding previous allegations.
Raised to cardinal in 2001 by John Paul, a year after he became Archbishop of Washington, McCarrick went on to become a power player both in the
Church and in Washington, DC, and was known for his fundraising and influence overseas.
He resigned from the College of Cardinals in 2018 and was defrocked by the Vatican in 2019 after a Church trial found him guilty of sexually abusing minors.
McCarrick has been issued a summons ordering him to appear in court for an arraignment on August 26, according to the filing.
CNN has reached out to the Wellesley Police Department, the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office and The Vatican for a comment.
This is only the third high-ranking member of the Catholic church in the US to be criminally charged with crimes related to sex abuse, said Marci Hamilton, CEO of Child USA, who has worked with hundreds of victims of sex abuse at the hands of priests and clergy.
“When prosecutors bring charges against the powerful in a religious institution like the Catholic church they are validating the thousands of victims that have come forward,” Hamilton told CNN. “In the state of Massachusetts for prosecutors to file these charges against a powerful member of the church shows that the child sex abuse movement is making inroads and it heartens me.”
In the court filing, investigators wrote that the January interview with the victim took place in response to a letter sent to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office by Garabedian. Meghan Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office told CNN, “our investigation remains ongoing at this time.”