Thursday, January 11, 2024

The McCarrick nightmare continues; not competent to stand trial


Case against disgraced Catholic cardinal suspended; McCarrick not competent to stand trial

Laura Schulte
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MADISON - A Wisconsin judge on Wednesday ruled that a former Catholic cardinal is not competent to stand trial, due to a diagnosis of dementia, suspending charges of sexually assaulting a boy in the 1970s.

Theodore McCarrick, the defrocked former cardinal, will not have to go before a jury in the case, but the decision will be reviewed at the end of the year, according to online court records. He did not appear in person for the hearing, but did dial in by phone.

Prosecutors in Walworth County and the Department of Justice in April charged McCarrick with sexual assault in a 1977 incident. He was charged with fourth-degree sexual assault, and if convicted, McCarrick would have faced up to nine months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Peter Isely, a member of Ending Clergy Abuse, said the charge would have brought some sort of justice for survivors of McCarrick's abuse. The survivor in this case likely won't see that justice, he said.

"For a victim to see his offender before a judge – even if that appearance is by phone – it can be a day of emancipation and liberation from carrying the awful burden of shame and secrecy that are an inevitable consequence of these crimes," Isely said in a release. "Inexplicably, Judge Reddy did not give the victim that day.”

In the incident for which he is charged, prosecutors said McCarrick groped an 18-year-old while they were both staying as guests at a residence on Geneva Lake. According to documents, the teen was in the lake off a dock when McCarrick and another adult man entered the water. Both groped him and discussed his genitals, the complaint alleges.

The teen 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 complainant said McCarrick began sexually assaulting him at age 11. According to the complaint, he 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 accuser also reported that McCarrick had taken him to an event where several adult men assaulted him. The accuser also said McCarrick had sex with him the day before the incident on Geneva Lake.

In 1977, McCarrick would have been 46 years old. He was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York and was working as the private secretary to Cardinal Terence Cooke. The incident is said to have occurred a month before McCarrick was named auxiliary bishop of New York. He would go on to become the bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, then the archbishop of Newark and the archbishop of Washington. He was named cardinal in 2001.

McCarrick never lived or worked in Wisconsin but made visits to the state. He was able to be charged because the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse tolls, or pauses, if the perpetrator leaves the state and does not return, meaning a case can be charged at any point, instead of within a limited number of years.

The Walworth County charge is the latest development in a years-long fall from grace for the once-powerful cardinal. He was also charged in a Massachusetts case, which alleged he assaulted a teenage boy at a wedding in 1974. He pleaded not guilty in 2021. That case was dismissed last year, because McCarrick, who lives at a residence for troubled priests in Missouri, has dementia and was deemed not competent to stand trial.

McCarrick is the only U.S. Catholic cardinal, current or former, ever to be criminally charged with child sex crimes.

McCarrick's legal issues began in 2017 when a former altar boy came forward to report the priest had groped him when he was a teenager in New York. The next year, the Archdiocese of New York announced that McCarrick had been removed from ministry after finding the allegation to be "credible and substantiated," and two New Jersey dioceses revealed they had settled claims of sexual misconduct against him in the past involving adults.

Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick in 2019 after a Vatican investigation determined he sexually abused minors, as well as adults.

The two-year internal investigation into McCarrick found that three decades of bishops, cardinals and popes downplayed or dismissed reports of sexual misconduct. Correspondence showed they repeatedly rejected the information outright as rumor and excused it as an "imprudence."

The investigative findings released in 2020 pinned much of the blame on Pope John Paul II, who appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington, D.C., despite having commissioned an inquiry that confirmed McCarrick slept with seminarians.

Prosecutors in Wisconsin charged McCarrick after someone reported the abuse to the state Department of Justice's ongoing clergy abuse investigation.

Since launching the investigation in 2021, Kaul's office has forwarded two other cases to local law enforcement for charges: 33-year-old Remington Jon Nystrom in Waushara County for a 2019 incident and 61-year-old Jeffrey Anthony Charles in Douglas County for incidents that occurred between 2005 and 2010.

The investigation is still ongoing, with no end date set at this point.

Laura Schulte can be reached at and on X at @SchulteLaura.

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