Pope Francis has defrocked former US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after Vatican officials found him guilty of soliciting for sex while hearing Confession and sexual crimes against minors and adults, the Holy See said on Saturday.
McCarrick, who in July became the first Roman Catholic prelate in nearly 100 years to lose the title of cardinal, has now become the highest profile church figure to be dismissed from the priesthood in modern times.
The punishment for the once-powerful prelate, who had served as the archbishop of Washington, was announced five days before Francis is to lead an extraordinary gathering of bishops from around the world to help the church grapple with the crisis of sex abuse by clergy and systematic cover-ups by church hierarchy. The decades-long scandals have shaken the faith of many Catholics and threatened his papacy.
Defrocking means McCarrick, 88, who has been living in seclusion in a friary in Kansas since last year, won’t be allowed to celebrate Mass or other sacraments.
The Vatican’s press office said that on Jan. 11, the Holy See’s doctrinal watchdog office, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, had found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”