Vatican defrocks former US cardinal McCarrick over sex abuse

Cardinal Sean O’Malley

Cardinal Sean O'Malley issued a statement Saturday after the announcement that McCarrick had been found guilty by the Vatican of sex abuse, including while hearing confession.

On July 28, Pope Francis announced that he had accepted the resignation from the College of Cardinals of Cardinal McCarrick and ordered him to maintain "a life of prayer and penance" until a canonical trial examined accusations that he sexually abused minors.

McCarrick, 88, who became the first Catholic prelate in almost 100 years to lose the title of cardinal in July, has now become the highest profile church figure to be dismissed from the priesthood in modern times.

The former cardinal has said he has "absolutely no recollection" of an alleged case of sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy more than 50 years ago, reported Reuters news agency.

He also claims to have informed Francis that Benedict XVI had placed formal sanctions on McCarrick in retirement, although these later turned out to be informal restrictions which were never enforced or simply ignored by the ex-cardinal.

McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., and a favorite of presidents and popes alike, will suffer the ultimate punishment of the church for clergy by being forbidden to celebrate Mass or other sacraments, wear clerical vestments or be addressed by any religious title.

The Vatican summit, which starts Thursday and runs through February 24, will draw church leaders from around the world to talk about preventing sex abuse.

A full meeting of American bishops and Cardinals in January passed without any mention of the sexual abuse crisis. McCarrick was a bishop in New Jersey at the time.

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The organization, which brings together activists and survivors from more than 17 countries, said any cleric found to have abused a child or covered up abuse - regardless of how long ago the crime took place - should be defrocked.

According to The New York Times, the move to expel McCarrick from the church is "the most serious sign to date that Pope Francis is addressing the clerical sex abuse crisis in the United States".

McCarrick can not appeal the punishment, meaning that he will be unable to celebrate Mass or other sacraments for the rest of his life, reported NBC News.

Ms Collins, who was a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), said the church has too often kicked the can down the road - but eventually, "you get to the end of the road and you have pile of cans". It was called in part to respond to the McCarrick scandal as well as to the explosion of the abuse crisis in Chile and its escalation in the United States previous year.

The current archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where McCarrick was posted at the pinnacle of his career from 2001-2006, said it hoped that the Vatican decision "serves to help the healing process for survivors of abuse, as well as those who have experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done".

Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org says while his defrocking is significant, "most abusive bishops have escaped" defrocking.

In a statement, she said of the 101 accused bishops her group has tracked, McCarrick is only the seventh to be laicized.

Francis subsequently promised a fresh investigation into McCarrick, including using Vatican archives.

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