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Theodore McCarrick, First US Cardinal Charged With Child Sex Abuse, Pleads Not Guilty At Arraignment In Dedham

DEDHAM (CBS) - Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the only U.S. Cardinal ever charged with sex crimes, was arraigned Friday in Dedham District Court.

Wellesley Police charged McCarrick, 91, with indecent assault and battery back in July. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf Friday to three counts of sexually assaulting a teenager.

He was released on $5,000 bail and ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim or any children. He was also ordered to turn over his passport and is not allowed to leave the country.

Theodore McCarrick
Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in Dedham District Court, September 3, 2021. (WBZ-TV)

The alleged assault happened at a wedding reception at Wellesley College in 1974. The accuser, who was 11 at the time, also told police McCarrick continued to abuse him in the years after when they met up in Newton and Arlington.

"The defendant immersed himself into the fabric of the victim's family and then used his status as a priest to access and prey upon the victim," prosecutor Sarah Lelle said Friday. "He specifically used the act of confession to get the victim away from his parents and from his siblings and then would sexually assault the victim during that time frame."

Victims' advocates shouted at McCarrick as he was walked to his car after the hearing.

"You could play a leadership role in turning all of this around, don't you want to do that?" one said. "I'm really glad to see that little weasel in court because he ruined lives, children's lives."

"I hope this is the change, not only in law enforcement, but we need the same sort of cultural shift within the community for actual things to change," another said.

McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington D.C. and once one of the most powerful Cardinals in America, is the highest-ranking former church official to face criminal charges in the U.S. clergy abuse scandal. He was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after an internal investigation found he had abused minors and seminarians for decades.

Several men have filed civil lawsuits against him, but this is the first time he's faced criminal charges.

The Archdiocese of Boston released a statement that said in part: "We are grateful that the survivor in Massachusetts cases and all survivors, who have the courage to come forward, bring to light the crimes alleged."

A Vatican report last year revealed that Pope John Paul II, who made McCarrick a Cardinal, knew about the allegations but ignored them.

CBS News Vatican consultant Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo worked as McCarrick's secretary for 20 years and spoke to him shortly before Friday's arraignment.

"The first thing he said is, I do not want to end my life in this way. So he expects something serious to come from this trial, perhaps imprisonment," Figueiredo said. "And even more stunning, 'I want my priesthood back,' it's almost as if he was deluded about the damage he has caused to victims above all, but also to the church and the loss of faith of millions of Catholics."

"It means that no bishop is safe," said Figuereido. "I hope that it has many shaking in their boots, those who have covered up and those, too, who have abused."

Before accusations prompted the Vatican to defrock McCarrick in 2019, he had claimed to be on the side of victims back when the church sex abuse scandal first broke.

"We will do what we've said we're going to do. We will protect children," he said in 2002.

McCarrick, who now lives in Missouri, left court using a walker and did not speak to reporters. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the charges in Massachusetts. He's due back in court October 28.

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