By Elise Harris
The Archdiocese of New York announced Wednesday that an investigation it conducted into an allegation of sexual abuse against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who oversaw multiple U.S. dioceses, has found the accusation to be “credible and substantiated.”
In the June 20 statement, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said the alleged abuse happened nearly 50 years ago while McCarrick was a priest of the New York archdiocese. It is the only such accusation against McCarrick that the archdiocese is aware of, Dolan said.
Once the archdiocese received the allegation, they turned it over to local law enforcement, and it was “thoroughly investigated” by an independent forensics team, Dolan said, noting that McCarrick has maintained his innocence, but is cooperating in the investigation.
The Vatican has been informed of the accusation, and as a result, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, by order of Pope Francis, has prohibited McCarrick from public ministry. No official statement from the Vatican has been released.
McCarrick, 87, is a native of New York and served as the Bishop of Metuchen from 1982-1986, Archbishop of Newark from 1986-2000 and Archbishop of Washington from 2000-2006.
In his own statement on the alleged abuse, McCarrick said he was informed by Dolan about the allegation of abusing a teenager several months ago.
“While shocked by the report, and while maintaining my innocence,” he said, “I considered it essential that the charges be reported to the police, thoroughly investigated by an independent agency, and given to the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York. I fully cooperated in the process.”
The cardinal said he was sad to hear that the allegations had been deemed “credible and substantiated” by law enforcement officials.
He said that he accepts the Holy See’s decision to remove him from public ministry, and has pledged obedience to the decision.
“I realize this painful development will shock my many friends, family members, and people I have been honored to serve in my sixty-years as a priest,” he said, adding that while he has “absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.”
In his statement, Dolan said the Archdiocese of New York is “saddened and shocked” by the accusation, and asked for prayers for everyone involved.
Dolan also issued a renewed apology to all victims abused by priests, and thanked McCarrick’s accuser for having the courage to come forward. He voiced hope that this case “can bring a sense of resolution and fairness.”
In a separate statement from the Archdiocese of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin said news of the accusation against McCarrick was met with “a range of emotions,” and offered his apology to victims of abuse.
“I am thinking particularly of those who have experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy – whose lives have been impacted tragically by abuse,” he said. “To those survivors, their families and loved ones, I offer my sincere apologies and my commitment of prayer and action to support you in your healing.”
Tobin said the Archdiocese of Newark has never received any report or accusation of sexual abuse of a minor against McCarrick.
He noted that many people in Newark likely know McCarrick well from his time leading the archdiocese, and that while the accusation might be hard to comprehend, “we must put first the serious nature of this matter with respect and support for the process aimed at hearing victims and finding truth.”
“The abuse crisis in our Church has been devastating. We cannot undo the actions of the past, but we must continue to act with vigilance today,” Tobin said, and renewed his commitment to seek forgiveness and healing, and to creating a safe environment for children in Newark.
Tobin pledged to continue reporting “immediately to civil authorities any accusation of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy and [I] will cooperate fully in the investigation and adjudication.”
He encouraged anyone abused by a priest to come forward “as brave survivors before you have done,” and urged priests, religious and faithful of the archdiocese to keep the situation in their prayers.
Bishop James F. Checchio, current Bishop of Metuchen, said McCarrick “is appealing this matter through the canonical process.”
After hearing about the “very disturbing” report from New York, Checchio said he had Metuchen’s records re-examined, and no accusations of sexual abuse had ever been raised against McCarrick. However, in the past, allegations of “sexual behavior with adults” had been brought forward.
Both the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark, he said, decades ago received three allegations of “sexual misconduct with adults,” and two of these allegations have resulted in settlements.