A Massachusetts judge has dismissed the sexual assault case against former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, citing his dementia diagnosis. The 93-year-old ex-archbishop of Washington, D.C., was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after an internal Vatican investigation found him guilty of sexually molesting adults and children. The case’s dismissal comes as both prosecutors and defense attorneys agree that McCarrick’s dementia prevents him from standing trial.
During the hearing, Dr. Kerry Nelligan, a psychologist hired by the prosecution, testified that she observed significant memory deficits in McCarrick during two interviews in June. She stated that his condition, likely Alzheimer’s disease, would not improve with medication. McCarrick, appearing via video link, did not speak during the hearing.
McCarrick had faced charges of sexually assaulting a teenage boy at a wedding reception in 1974. He pleaded not guilty in September 2021. Additionally, he was charged in April with sexually assaulting an 18-year-old man in Wisconsin over 45 years ago. McCarrick’s attorneys had previously requested the case’s dismissal, citing his dementia diagnosis and limited understanding of the proceedings.
Mitchell Garabedian, the accuser’s lawyer, expressed disappointment with the court’s decision. He stated that many clergy sexual abuse victims view McCarrick as a symbol of evil within the Catholic Church. The Associated Press does not disclose the identity of sexual assault victims unless they choose to be named publicly.
Prosecutors alleged that McCarrick abused the teenage boy over several years, including during the wedding reception at Wellesley College. The victim stated that McCarrick also assaulted him in a coat room after they returned to the reception. Prosecutors claimed McCarrick instructed the boy to recite prayers before leaving the room.
In light of the dismissal, the case against McCarrick will not proceed to trial. The scandal surrounding McCarrick’s actions has caused a crisis of credibility for the Catholic Church, as evidence emerged that Vatican and U.S. church leaders were aware of his misconduct but failed to take action as he ascended within the church hierarchy.