28 July 2018, The Tablet

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Cardinal McCarrick

The Pope's decision marks another step in an extraordinary fall from grace for McCarrick

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Cardinal McCarrick

This picture from October 2005 shows Cardinal McCarrick, centre, with President Bush, left and Chief Justice Roberts, right
Photo: Gary Fabiano/DPA/PA Images

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals and ordered him to live a life of prayer and penance ahead of a Church trial. 

The retired Archbishop of Washington, who has been accused of the sexual abuse of children and sexual misconduct with adult seminarians, now faces the possibility of being dismissed from the priesthood.

“Yesterday evening the Holy Father received the letter in which Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington (U.S.A.), presented his resignation as a member of the College of Cardinals,” according to a Vatican statement released today. 

“Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the cardinalate and has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.”

The Pope's decision marks another step in an extraordinary fall from grace for an influential, globe-trotting prelate who had a reputation as a power broker and who counted presidents and Popes as his friends.

McCarrick, 88, becomes the first cardinal to resign his red hat since 1927 when French Jesuit Louis Billot gave up being a cardinal in a row with the Holy See over the right-wing political movement Action Française.  

More significantly, the US prelate is the highest ranking Church figure to face a canonical trial for sex abuse allegations, a significant development in the holding of senior Church leaders accountable. 

When Austrian Cardinal Hans Herman Groer, the former Archbishop of Vienna, was accused of sexually abusing young boys in 1995 he faced no canonical sanctions and kept his red hat. The cardinal instead resigned his position as archbishop, renounced the privileges associated with being a cardinal and retreated from public life to live in a monastery. 

Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, accused of sexual misconduct by fellow priests but not of anyone underage ahead of the 2013 conclave, also relinquished the “rights and duties” of being a cardinal although technically remained a member of the college.  

The latest development comes after McCarrick was last month removed from public ministry after an allegation that he fondled a teenager more than 40 years ago in New York City was found to be credible.

The decision to remove him from ministry was taken “at the direction of Pope Francis” after the Vatican was presented with the findings of a US review board for assessing the credibility of abuse allegations. The cardinal denied the initial allegation and has continued to maintain his innocence.  

Last week, the New York Times reported new abuse claims against the cardinal: this time that he had molested a child, aged 11, in what became a sexually abusive relationship which would continue for 20 years. 

Separately, a number of men have come forward to say McCarrick made unwanted sexual advances to them in a beach house in New Jersey when they were adult seminarians studying for the priesthood. The cardinal has not commented on these claims. 

A conviction in a church trial can lead to a number of sanctions including laicisation from the priesthood. 


  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99