In a move seen as unprecedented, Pope Francis has effectively stripped U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick of his cardinal’s title following allegations of sexual abuse, including one involving an 11-year-old boy which dates back decades.
McCarrick is the former archbishop of Washington and prominent diplomat.
In a statement, the Vatican said: “Yesterday evening the Holy Father received the letter in which Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop emeritus of Washington (U.S.A.), presented his resignation as a member of the College of Cardinals.
“Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the cardinalate and has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry.”
The statement said the cardinal would remain in seclusion “for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.”
McCarrick, a prominent Roman Catholic voice in international and public policy, was removed from public ministry on June 20, after an investigation found credible accusations that he had sexually abused a teenager 47 years ago while serving as a priest in New York.
McCarrick, now 88, said in a statement at the time that he was innocent.
Subsequent interviews by The New York Times revealed that some in the church hierarchy had known for decades about accusations that he had preyed on several men who wanted to become priests, sexually harassing and touching them.
At least one man said he was abused by McCarrick when he was a New Jersey bishop in the 1980s. The Times investigation discovered settlements amounting to tens of thousands of dollars over the years, paid to men who had made allegations of abuse against McCarrick, then a rising star in the Roman Catholic Church.
McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals is the first since Father Louis Billot tendered his resignation in 1927 because of political tensions with the Holy See.