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Ex-Cardinal McCarrick Faces Milestone Charges in Catholic Sex Abuse Crisis

Mr. McCarrick was removed from ministry in 2018 after an investigation by the church found credible allegations that he sexually abused a 16-year-old altar boy in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan in 1971.

After a Vatican trial, Mr. McCarrick was expelled from the priesthood in 2019, marking the first time a cardinal, the church’s highest-ranking position after the pope, was defrocked for sexual abuse. It was also the first time an American cardinal was removed from the priesthood.

A Vatican report on Mr. McCarrick, released in November, stated that Pope John Paul II, who is now a saint, personally decided to elevate Mr. McCarrick even after a U.S. cardinal warned that he had been accused of sexual misconduct. Pope Benedict XVI removed Mr. McCarrick as archbishop of Washington but did not investigate him, the report said, and Pope Francis initially assumed his predecessors had appropriately addressed the issue.

Mr. McCarrick’s history of predation was well-known among some church officials, who had been warned for decades that he had been accused of sexual harassment, including the inappropriate touching of adult seminarians, according to a New York Times investigation.

Multiple reports about the cardinal’s misconduct toward seminary students were made to American bishops, the papal ambassador to the United States, and Pope Benedict XVI between 1994 and 2008. Two dioceses in New Jersey secretly paid settlements, in 2005 and 2007, to two men who had accused Mr. McCarrick of abuse.

Despite these allegations, Mr. McCarrick climbed the ranks of the Catholic Church in the United States, becoming auxiliary bishop of New York in 1977, bishop of the newly created Diocese of Metuchen in New Jersey in 1981, archbishop of Newark in 1986, and ultimately archbishop of Washington in 2001.

Maria Margiotta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Newark, said it would be “inappropriate” for the archdiocese to comment on the criminal charges against Mr. McCarrick because he is “a now-private individual who is no longer affiliated with the archdiocese.” Ms. Margiotta said she had not seen the lawsuit filed against Mr. McCarrick and the archdiocese and had no comment about it.

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