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Sexual assault charges against Theodore McCarrick were dropped in Massachusetts Wednesday, after a judge ruled that McCarrick is not mentally competent to stand trial.

McCarrick’s lawyers say he lacks mental competence to stand trial
Theodore McCarrick outside a Massachusetts courthouse. The Pillar file photo.

The former cardinal, 92, was charged in 2021 with molesting a 16-year-old boy in 1974 at a Massachusetts wedding reception.

But in June, an expert hired by the state of Massachusetts recommended that McCarrick should be judged incompetent to stand trial on the decades-old sexual assault charges.

McCarrick, who was laicized by the Vatican in 2019, is the first U.S. Catholic bishop to face criminal charges over sexual assault allegations.

Before the charges were dismissed, McCarrick had pleaded not guilty to three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14. Each criminal count carried a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment in Massachusetts.


McCarrick filed a motion in February asking that the Massachusetts charges against him be dismissed, with his attorneys arguing that he lacked mental competence for a trial.

Defense attorneys said at the time that they had serious concerns that McCarrick “would be unable to assist meaningfully in the preparation of his own defense or to consult effectively with counsel during trial with a reasonable degree of rational understanding.”

They said they anticipated that the medical evaluations would show “significant neuropsychological deficits,” which appear “to be worsening rapidly, and to impair both Mr. McCarrick's cognition and his memory.”

In response to McCarrick’s motion, the state of Massachusetts hired its own expert evaluator, who met with McCarrick in Missouri, and who subsequently examined his medical records.

The examiner said in June that McCarrick did not appear to be competent to stand trial, and filed a report with Judge Michael Pomarole to that effect, according to a statement from the Norfolk District Attorney.

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While numerous allegations of sexual abuse have surfaced against McCarrick over the last five years, and he has been found guilty in a Vatican administrative penal process, the Massachusetts case was one of only two criminal cases against him. Many of the other allegations against McCarrick have fallen beyond state statutes of limitation, effectively preventing his prosecution in state courts.

In April, McCarrick was charged in Wisconsin with sexually assaulting a teenage boy in 1977.

He was accused of fondling an 18-year-old boy’s genitals when they were both guests at a house in Geneva Lake.

Wisconsin’s Department of Justice announced that the charges came out of an attorney general probe into Catholic dioceses in the state. That probe has faced criticism from both Catholic officials and some victims’ advocates. The Milwaukee archdiocese has criticized the review as targeted anti-Catholicism, while one victims’ advocacy group says the state’s AG has not done enough to pursue records on alleged sexual abuse cases. 

The alleged victim in the Wisconsin case, identified by Fox6 as James Grein, said McCarrick was close to his family, and alleged that he was 11 years old when McCarrick first exposed himself and soon after began to sexually assault him, frequently at parties.

Grein also said McCarrick had non-consensual intercourse with him, and had taken him on one occasion to an event where multiple adult males had intercourse with him, although those alleged events did not take place in Wisconsin and are not part of the Wisconsin criminal charges.

In 2018, Grein told the New York Times that he had been frequently abused by McCarrick, a family friend. Grein alleges that the abuse began when he was 11, in the early 1970s, before McCarrick was ordained a bishop.

Grein is also believed to be the alleged victim in the Massachusetts case against McCarrick.

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In June 2018, the Archdiocese of New York announced that McCarrick had been removed from public ministry, at the instruction of Pope Francis, over credible allegations that he had sexually abused an altar server.

The next month, he resigned from the College of Cardinals. In the months that followed, numerous other allegations of sexual abuse and coercion were raised against him.

McCarrick was laicized after a Vatican administrative penal process in 2019, which found him guilty canonically of sexual crimes with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of “abuse of power.”

McCarrick was also found by the Vatican to have solicited sexual contact within the sacrament of confession.

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