Wisconsin Public Radio

Ex-Cardinal McCarrick Faces Sexual Assault Charge

1970s incident discovered as result of attorney general's clergy abuse task force.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Apr 18th, 2023 02:51 pm
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Photo taken March 18, 2015 by the U.S. Institute of Peace. (CC BY 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Photo taken March 18, 2015 by the U.S. Institute of Peace. (CC BY 2.0)

A once high-ranking leader of the Catholic Church who’s faced multiple accusations throughout the country is now being charged with sexual assault in Wisconsin.

Walworth County District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld filed the misdemeanor charge Friday against Theodore McCarrick, 92, stemming from an alleged 1977 incident at a home on Geneva Lake.

According to a criminal complaint, McCarrick and another man, who was not named, fondled the genitals of an 18-year-old without the teen’s consent while the three were swimming. The teen splashed around and made noise before he was eventually able to get away and leave the lake, prosecutors wrote. After running inside the home, the teen asked for a ride to the train station, according to the complaint.

McCarrick, who rose to the role of cardinal in 2001, served as the archbishop of Washington, D.C. and prior to that, as the archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

But McCarrick was removed from the priesthood when he was defrocked in 2019, after an internal Vatican investigation found he had sexually abused minors and adults. That action followed media reports about McCarrick abusing his power over decades through sexual misconduct with men studying to be priests, known as seminarians.

Prosecutors: Case isn’t barred by statute of limitations because McCarrick didn’t live in Wisconsin

McCarrick has never lived in Wisconsin, and the alleged Geneva Lake incident happened when both he and the teen were guests at a home, the complaint says.

The time limit for filing the charge against McCarrick doesn’t apply, prosecutors wrote, since he’s never been a resident of the state. They cited a section of the law that states “the time during which the actor was not publicly a resident within this state … shall not be included” when calculating the statute of limitations.

“If somebody is not a resident, only the days when they’re actually in the state count towards the statute of limitations,” Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said Monday in an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio.

Barry Coburn, one of McCarrick’s attorneys, declined to comment on the charge, which was filed in Walworth County Circuit Court.

Complaint: McCarrick abused victim for years

Although the Walworth County charge stems from an assault that prosecutors say happened when the victim was 18, the complaint also says McCarrick first exposed his genitals to the victim when the boy was 11 and that McCarrick began molesting the boy shortly thereafter.

Throughout the victim’s childhood, McCarrick would take the boy to special events or lavish parties and then sexually assault him, according to the complaint, which says those incidents happened in states other than Wisconsin. The abuse included McCarrick taking the victim to an event where several men had intercourse with the victim, prosecutors wrote.

And, on the day before the Geneva Lake assault, McCarrick had sex with the victim in Chicago without the teen’s consent, the complaint said.

An address listed for McCarrick on the Walworth County complaint corresponds to Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Maryland.

Coburn, McCarrick’s attorney, declined to comment Monday on where his client is currently living. Someone who answered the phone at the seminary Monday said he could not give out that information.

McCarrick faces separate sexual assault charges in Massachusetts. But the Associated Press has reported that his lawyers filed a motion earlier this year seeking to dismiss the case by arguing McCarrick has dementia and is incompetent to stand trial.

Charge stems from report to AG task force on clergy abuse

The Walworth County charge stemmed from a complaint made to the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Clergy and Faith Leader Abuse initiative, according to a news release. Wisconsin’s Department of Justice launched that task force two years ago to investigate allegations of abuse by clergy in Wisconsin. Recently, that task force helped bring about the conviction of Jon Nystrom, who pleaded guilty this month to sexually assaulting a child when he was working as a counselor at a Christian camp in 2009.

Eventually, the task force will release a summary of its findings on a date to be determined, Kaul said.

“We have heard from survivors about the importance of having the truth acknowledged,” Kaul told WPR. “One of the things that I know is important to a number of survivors is ensuring that the lists of those credibly accused of abuse … accurately reflect the information that’s out there.”

Along with investigating allegations that could result in criminal charges, the task force has been connecting people with victim’s services. Survivors of clergy abuse can make a report at SupportSurvivors.widoj.gov or by calling 877-222-2620.

Listen to the WPR report here.

Ex-Cardinal McCarrick faces sexual assault charge in Wisconsin was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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