Former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick wears a mask during arraignment at Dedham District Court in Dedham, Mass., Sept. 3, 2021. Facing charges that he had molested a 16-year-old boy in 1974, the case was dismissed, the judge ruling that McCarrick no longer has the cognitive capacity to stand trial. On Jan. 10, 2024, a judge in Wisconsin suspended a similar case. OSV News photo/David L Ryan, Pool via Reuters

Wisconsin judge suspends criminal case against McCarrick

  • January 11, 2024

A Wisconsin judge has suspended a criminal case against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick Jan. 10, citing incompetency. McCarrick had been charged with fourth-degree sexual assault for abuse that allegedly took place in 1977.

The ruling follows a dismissal of all criminal charges against McCarrick in Massachusetts in August, when the former cleric also was deemed no longer mentally competent. In that case, Dedham District Court Judge Michael Pomarole ruled McCarrick, a once-powerful and influential Catholic cardinal, is unable to stand trial after receiving a medical report from prosecutors which agreed with the earlier defense report that McCarrick, 93, is suffering from dementia.

No other criminal cases regarding McCarrick are pending at this time.

Charges were announced against McCarrick last April by Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and Walworth County District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld. According to the complaint, which emerged from a report made to Wisconsin Department of Justice's (WDOJ) Clergy and Faith Leader Abuse initiative, McCarrick allegedly fondled the victim's genitals while staying as a guest at a Geneva Lake, Wisconsin, residence. The complaint asserts that McCarrick "engaged in repeated sexual abuse of the victim over time," according to the WDOJ media release.

The release did not specify if the alleged victim was a minor. According to its website, the WDOJ "expects that the vast majority of information gathered during its review will relate to sexual abuse of minors," but the agency's scrutiny "will not be limited by a victim's age at the time of abuse."

The substance of the reports on McCarrick's mental capacities were not made public.

McCarrick's lawyers, Barry Coburn and Daniel Marx, first raised the competency issue in February 2023, when they filed a motion to have the charges in the Massachusetts case dismissed based on a report from a medical expert they hired. The defense attorneys claimed McCarrick suffers from advancing and irreversible dementia.

"While he has a limited understanding of the criminal proceedings against him, his progressive and irreparable cognitive deficits render him unable to meaningfully consult with his counsel or to effectively assist in his own defense," Coburn and Marx wrote at the time.

McCarrick, once one of the most powerful clerics in the Catholic Church known for his fundraising prowess, has been accused of sexually abusing both adult and child victims over decades, a scandal that burst into public in 2018. After the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now a dicastery) found McCarrick guilty of abuse in 2019, he was laicized by Pope Francis. McCarrick's clerical career and its accompanying allegations of sexual abuse were detailed in an extensive Vatican report issued in November 2020.

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