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Criminal charges against Theodore McCarrick dropped as former cardinal deemed unfit to stand trial in sex-abuse case

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Former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick wears a mask during arraignment at Dedham District Court in Dedham, Mass., Sept. 3, 2021, after being charged with molesting a 16-year-old boy during a 1974 wedding reception. A medical expert consulted by Massachusetts prosecutors says McCarrick is not competent to stand trial. (OSV News photo/David L Ryan, Pool via Reuters)

DEDHAM, Mass. — The Massachusetts sex abuse case against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick fell apart Wednesday as all criminal charges were dismissed due to the disgraced former cleric being deemed no longer mentally competent.

Dedham District Court Judge Michael Pomarole ruled McCarrick 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.

“The Commonwealth’s independent evaluator concurred that he is not competent,” said David Traub, spokesman for Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey.

Traub said the state moved to drop all charges after Pomarole’s ruling.

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 when they filed a motion to have the charges 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 was charged in Dedham District Court in 2021 for allegedly assaulting a teen boy 50 years ago. He is one of the highest ranking Catholic prelates to be charged for sexual abuse since the church’s abuse scandal first broke out into the open in Boston in 2002.

Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer who represented many of the original sex abuse victims in Boston and the attorney for McCarrick’s alleged victim, said the judge’s Aug. 30 ruling does not change what McCarrick did to his victims.

“In spite of the criminal court’s decision today, many clergy sexual abuse victims feel as though former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is and will always be the permanent personification of evil within the Catholic Church,” Garabedian said.

McCarrick was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14. Each count carried a potential five-year prison sentence.

According to court records, McCarrick was close to the victim’s family, celebrating Mass at their home and even going on trips with them. The victim told investigators that McCarrick abused him during trips out of state. It was also under the guise of providing spiritual direction to the victim that the alleged abuse took place, according to the criminal complaint.

One incident allegedly took place in the 1970s at the wedding reception for the victim’s brother, which was held on Massachusetts’ Wellesley College campus. According to the criminal complaint, McCarrick is alleged to have gotten the victim, 16 at this time, to go outside with him to talk about the victim not attending Mass, and then fondled the victim.

The pair went back to the reception and McCarrick allegedly told the victim he had to go to confession, using a closet for privacy. Then, using the sacrament of reconciliation as a cover, McCarrick allegedly continued to abuse the boy, according to the complaint, giving him three Our Fathers and a Hail Mary as penance.

Once one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church, McCarrick was accused in 2018 of decades of sexual abuse, including allegedly targeting young men in seminaries. He was found guilty of abuse in 2019 by the Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith and removed from the clerical state by Pope Francis.

McCarrick is facing criminal prosecution for sexual abuse alleged to have taken place in 1977 in Wisconsin, although it is now likely his attorneys will move to have that case dismissed on similar grounds. Walworth County District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld, who is overseeing McCarrick’s prosecution, was not immediately available for comment.

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