Prominent ex-cardinal expelled from the priesthood is the highest-ranking Catholic dismissal in modern times

  • The Catholic Church saw its highest-profile dismissal in modern times on Saturday, as former US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was expelled from the priesthood following sex abuse allegations.
  • Ex-cardinal Thomas McCarrick, who had resigned in July, allegedly abused minors and men studying at seminary.
  • The verdict cannot be appealed. One of his victims, through a lawyer, said “it’s time for us to cleanse the church.”

Days before a major summit on the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, one of the organisation’s top former leaders was dismissed from the priesthood, the highest-profile expulsion in modern times.

Ex-cardinal Thomas McCarrick, who led the Archdiocese of Washington, was defrocked on Saturday. Vatican officials found him guilty of soliciting for sex while hearing Confession and of committing “sins” with minors and adults, “with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

The verdict cannot be appealed.

Saturday’s decision is the most serious abuse-related penalty yet for a high-profile Catholic leader.

McCarrick resigned as cardinal in July, the first official to lose that title in nearly a century, after multiple men accused him of sexual abuse when they were minors or in seminary.

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The verdict is considered the most significant punishment from Church leadership. Now, 88-year-old McCarrick, who lives in a remote religious community in Kansas, cannot celebrate Mass or other sacraments.

The ex-cardinal likely will not face criminal charges in the US, because the statute of limitations has expired.

James Grein, a Virginia man who said McCarrick started abusing him when he was 11, said through his lawyer that “it’s time for us to cleanse the church.”

“Today I am happy that the Pope believed me,” Grein said in a statement. “I am hopeful now I can pass through my anger for the last time. I hope that Cardinal McCarrick will no longer be able to use the power of Jesus’ Church to manipulate families and sexually abuse children.”

On Thursday, Pope Francis will gather bishops from around the world for a summit on the church’s sex abuse crisis. Meanwhile, archdioceses across the US are continuing to release names of accused priests. On Wednesday, five dioceses in New Jersey named 188 clergy members accused of sexually abusing children dating back decades. McCarrick was among the names on the Newark diocese’s list.