U.S. Cardinal McCarrick has been Defrocked

McCarrick cannot identify himself as a priest from now on

The Vatican has indicted Theodore McCarrick, a former Cardinal, for sexual abuse. McCarrick has been defrocked and can no longer be referred to as a Cardinal. He was notified of the papal decision on February 13. The dismissal of the once powerful archbishop of Washington has entered the Catholic Church history books as the first cardinal and the highest ranking churchman to be punished by dismissal.

Pope Francis recognized the judgment as “definitive nature” and “res iudicata,” meaning it cannot be appealed. This punishment means the 88-year-old McCarrick could no longer identify himself as a priest and could not wear priestly robes. He cannot celebrate the sacraments. The pontiff ordered the former cardinal, who now lives in a Kansas friary, to reside in a secluded environment and engage himself in “prayer and penance.” There is much speculation as to how the elderly former churchman will survive as the Vatican will no longer pay his living expenses.

Pope Francis will lead a bishops summit this week in Rome. Catholic bishops from all over the world will attend. The summit participants will assist the pope to manage the problem of multiple sex abuse cases and a wide range of systematic cover-ups by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. The latter has been rocked in recent years by revelations of sexually abusive priests who preyed on minors. Further compounding this grim scenario is the way their bosses shuffled these criminal churchmen from one parish to another instead of removing their access to children. Such incidents have not only shaken the faith of a large number of Catholics but also threatens Pope Francis’ moral authority. Critics have even started questioning the survival of the Francis-led papacy.

The McCarrick scandal especially dented the reputation of the Catholic Church as it was a kind of open secret to those in the know that the former archbishop had slept with a number of adult seminarians. The pope took away McCarrick’s cardinal rank in July after a U.S. church investigation unearthed credible information of the former priest sexually abusing a then-teenage altar boy during the 1970s. Barry Coburn, the civil lawyer representing McCarrick, said his client declined to comment when asked about the defrocking.

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