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Wisconsin AG charges ex-Cardinal McCarrick with fourth-degree sexual assault
The disgraced former Catholic leader has been repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct
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Wisconsin’s Attorney General Josh Kaul has just charged former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick with fourth-degree sexual assault, based on a complaint saying the Church leader fondled the victim’s genitals in 1977.
This is separate from a case in Massachusetts also involving McCarrick and a child victim. He pleaded not guilty to that accusation in 2021, and his lawyers claimed in February that he’s not competent to stand trial because the 92-year-old has dementia (stemming from Alzheimer's disease).
In 2019, Theodore McCarrick became the first Catholic cardinal to be defrocked for sexually abusing boys under his care. (Those victims are separate from the ones mentioned above.) It was a shock at the time given both his place in the Church hierarchy and the fact that he was the former archbishop of Newark and Washington D.C. At the time of the allegations, McCarrick was the highest-ranking Catholic child sex predator in the world.
Through the Vatican's inquiry into the allegations, we learned that McCarrick would often bring teenage boys with him when he traveled many decades ago—it was considered an honor for their families—only to sexually abuse them on the trips. He also allegedly abused seminarians. There was a "sex ring" at a beach house. There were at least 10 allegations against him from minors.
None of those claims, however, led to criminal charges because they happened so long ago. He didn’t face any real consequences until the case in Massachusetts.
According to the Boston Globe in 2021, McCarrick was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery for "sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy during a wedding reception at Wellesley College in the 1970s."
The Associated Press offered more (disturbing) details:
The man says McCarrick groped him when he was 16 in 1974 as they walked around the campus of Wellesley College, where his brother’s wedding reception was being held. The man also alleges that McCarrick led him into a room and fondled the boy before telling him to “say three Our Fathers and a Hail Mary or it was one Our Father and three Hail Marys, so God can redeem you of your sins,” according to the court documents.
I don't know what sickens me more: The action itself or McCarrick supposedly telling the boy to ask God for forgiveness, as if the boy did anything wrong. In any case, the trial has not yet begun and McCarrick’s lawyers are doing everything they can to delay the proceedings or have the charges tossed out.
All the more reason why today’s announcement from Wisconsin is so important.
According to Kaul and Walworth District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld, the charges arise from this decades-old situation:
… The charge in this case stems from a report made to the Attorney General’s Clergy and Faith Leader Abuse initiative. The complaint alleges that McCarrick engaged in repeated sexual abuse of the victim over time, including the charged incident that involved the alleged fondling of the victim’s genitals while staying as a guest at a Geneva Lake residence.
The criminal complaint gets more specific:
According to a criminal complaint, the victim was in the lake off a dock when McCarrick and another adult man entered the water as well. Both groped him and discussed his genitals, the complaint said the victim reported.
The victim tried to get away from the men and splashed and made noise, he said, according to the complaint. He got out of the lake with one leg in his swim trunks and ran to the house. He got dressed and asked for a ride to the train station, according to the complaint.
The victim said McCarrick began sexually assaulting him at age 11. According to the complaint, the victim reported several incidents in which McCarrick inappropriately touched or assaulted him before he was 18 years old.
McCarrick took the teen to lavish parties and events, the complaint said. The victim also reported that McCarrick had taken him to an event where several adult men assaulted him. The victim also said McCarrick had sex with him the day before the incident on Geneva Lake.
It’s possible there’s only one charge against McCarrick because there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him or the other adult men with more. Even though the incident in question occurred decades ago, state law says the statute of limitations doesn’t apply to victims who are not residents of the state. And while McCarrick doesn’t live in Wisconsin, the alleged abuse occurred within state lines.
The Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation celebrated the AG’s decision to charge McCarrick:
This is a welcome development because, while Kaul launched a statewide investigation into clergy abuse in 2021, the state’s investigation has been shrouded in secrecy and had seemingly slowed after the Archdiocese of Milwaukee reportedly refused to fully cooperate.
“We know from other reports that the scope of abuse and cover-up by the church around the entire world has been staggering,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This development shows why an aggressive investigation is needed in Wisconsin—and in every state that has not yet completed one.”
In Wisconsin, fourth-degree sexual assault is defined as sexual contact without consent. It’s a misdemeanor rather than a (more serious) felony and could mean up to nine months in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if McCarrick is found guilty.
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