Crime & Justice

US former cardinal pleads not guilty to sexual assault

Washington, Sep 3 (EFE).- Former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick entered a plea of not guilty Friday at a hearing on charges he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old boy in 1974.

Once among the most powerful Catholic prelates in the United States, McCarrick, 91, used a walker to make his way into the district court in Dedham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.

One of the protesters gathered outside the courthouse shouted “shame on you” at the former archbishop of Washington, DC.

McCarrick, who was expelled from the priesthood two years ago, had not been seen in public since 2018.

He did not speak during the hearing, but his attorney relayed his plea of not guilty to the judge, who set bail of $5,000 and ordered the defendant to surrender his passport.

McCarrick, the only US cardinal to date charged criminally for sexual misconduct, was ordered not to have any contact with minors or with his now-sexagenarian accuser.

The next hearing is set for Oct. 28.

Ordinarily, the statute of limitations would prevent prosecution for an act committed nearly five decades ago. In this case, however, the clock stopped when McCarrick, who was not a Massachusetts resident, left the state.

The accuser says that McCarrick, a friend of the family, assaulted him in a cloakroom during his brother’s wedding reception at Wellesley College outside Boston.

Though the first public allegations against McCarrick emerged only in 2017, subsequent investigations by US bishops and the Vatican established that people at the highest levels of the church had long known about his affairs with seminarians and about claims that he sexually abused altar boys and other minors.

In February 2019, McCarrick became the most senior prelate in decades to be expelled from the priesthood.

An Australian cardinal, George Pell, got a sexual abuse conviction overturned on appeal. While in France, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was ultimately acquitted of having protected a notorious pedophile priest. EFE lb/dr

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