Pope Francis has confirmed the removal from the priesthood of Theodore E. McCarrick, the 88-year-old former cardinal and archbishop of Washington.
The Vatican announced the decision on 16th February, saying he was found guilty of “solicitation in the sacrament of Confession and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”
A panel of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty on 11th January, the Vatican said. McCarrick appealed the decision, but the appeal was rejected on 13th February by the congregation itself. McCarrick was informed of the decision on 15th February and Pope Francis “recognised the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law,” making a further appeal impossible.
By ordering McCarrick’s “dismissal from the clerical state,” the decision means that McCarrick loses all rights and duties associated with being a priest, cannot present himself as a priest and is forbidden to celebrate the sacraments, except to grant absolution for sins to a person in imminent danger of death.
The only Church penalty that is more severe is excommunication, which would have banned him from receiving the sacraments. The other possible punishment was to sentence him to a “life of prayer and penance,” a penalty often imposed on elderly clerics; the penalty is similar to house arrest and usually includes banning the person from public ministry, limiting his interactions with others and restricting his ability to leave the place he is assigned to live.
McCarrick’s punishment is the toughest meted out to a cardinal by the Vatican in modern times.
He currently lives in a Capuchin friary in rural Kansas.
Picture: Then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, arrives in procession for a Mass of thanksgiving for Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 22nd November 2010. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).