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Ex-Cardinal pleads innocent to assault

by ALANNA DURKIN RICHER THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | September 4, 2021 at 4:31 a.m.

DEDHAM, Mass. -- Former Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the once-powerful American prelate who was expelled from the priesthood for sexual abuse, pleaded innocent Friday to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy during a wedding reception in Massachusetts nearly 50 years ago.

McCarrick, 91, wore a mask and entered suburban Boston's Dedham District Court hunched over a walker. "Shame on you!" a protester shouted.

He did not speak during the hearing, at which the court entered an innocent plea on his behalf, set bail at $5,000 and ordered him to stay away from the victim and have no contact with minors.

McCarrick is the only American cardinal ever to be charged with child sex crimes.

His attorney, Katherine Zimmerl, said afterward that they are "looking forward to addressing the allegations in court." Another hearing was set for Oct. 28.

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McCarrick, who lives in Dittmer, Mo., faced three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14, according to court documents. He can still face charges because he wasn't a Massachusetts resident and had left the state, stopping the clock on the statute of limitations.

An attorney for the accuser said after the hearing that his client has shown an "enormous amount of courage" by coming forward and is "ready to see this trial through the end."

"Today's arraignment provides hope for many clergy sex abuse victims and survivors that justice will prevail, truth will be told and children will be kept safe," said Mitchell Garabedian.

The Associated Press generally doesn't identify people who report sexual assault unless they agree to be named publicly, which the victim in this case has not done.

The case against McCarrick and other Catholic clerics is especially raw in Boston, where the global priest sex abuse scandal was first exposed.

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-founder of the online research database, said McCarrick's case marks a "new phase in the global struggle" to hold abusive clergy accountable.

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"The world is witnessing what was unimaginable 20 years ago: a powerful cardinal forced to answer to child sexual abuse charges in a suburban courtroom," she told reporters.

Susan Renehan, who said she was sexually assaulted by another priest as a girl and came to the courthouse to see McCarrick's arraignment, called the charges just a "crumb" for victims who themselves never got justice, but still a cause for celebration.

"So many lives have been ruined, and nobody seems to care in the Catholic Church," she said.

Ordained in 1958, McCarrick ascended the church ranks despite apparently common knowledge in the U.S. and Vatican leadership that "Uncle Ted," as he was known, slept with seminarians.

McCarrick became one of the most visible Catholic officials in the U.S. and even served as spokesman for U.S. bishops when they enacted a "zero tolerance" policy against sexually abusive priests in 2002.

His fall began in 2017 when a former altar boy came forward to report the priest had groped him when he was a teenager in New York.

The next year, the Archdiocese of New York announced that it had removed McCarrick from ministry after finding the allegation to be "credible and substantiated," and two New Jersey dioceses revealed they had settled claims of sexual misconduct against him in the past involving adults.

Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick in 2019 after a Vatican investigation determined he sexually abused minors as well as adults.

Information for this article was contributed by Nicole Winfield of The Associated Press.

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