Former US Cardinal McCarrick not competent to face sex abuse trial, judge says

Former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick attends arraignment at Dedham District Court

By Nate Raymond

DEDHAM, Massachusetts (Reuters) -A Massachusetts judge on Wednesday dismissed a criminal case charging former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick with molesting a 16-year-old boy in 1974, saying the 93-year-old was not competent to stand trial after psychological experts found he had dementia.

McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019, became the only current or former U.S. Catholic cardinal to ever face child sex abuse charges when prosecutors in Massachusetts first charged him in 2021.

He was charged in April in a separate, ongoing criminal sexual assault case in Wisconsin involving the same alleged victim, who prosecutors said was fondled by McCarrick when he was 18 years old while staying as a guest at a cabin in 1977.

Prosecutors in Dedham, Massachusetts, said that three years earlier, during a family wedding reception at Wellesley College, McCarrick groped the boy as they walked around campus before taking him into a small closet-like room and fondling him.

But on Wednesday, Judge Paul McCallum in Dedham granted prosecutors' request to dismiss three counts of indecent assault and battery over the 1974 incident, after a psychologist retained by the prosecution testified she believed McCarrick had dementia.

Kerry Nelligan, the psychologist, testified that when she met with McCarrick in June, he was often unable to recall what they discussed and that his condition rendered him unable to meaningfully participate in his own defense.

"There were significant deficits in his memory and ability to retain information," Nelligan said.

Her assessment was shared by a defense expert who earlier this year said McCarrick has dementia, likely due to Alzheimer's disease.

McCarrick, who lives in an assisted living facility in Missouri, appeared by video and said nothing during the proceedings. He had previously pleaded not guilty. His lawyers declined to comment.

McCarrick was expelled from the Roman Catholic priesthood in 2019 after a Vatican investigation found him guilty of sexual crimes against minors and adults.

A Vatican report in November 2020 found that McCarrick rose through the church's ranks despite rumors of sexual misconduct and that Pope John Paul II promoted him despite knowing the allegations.

The Massachusetts and Wisconsin cases are the only two he has faced despite lawsuits by other men accusing him of sexual abuse decades ago. A legal quirk froze the statute of limitations in the Massachusetts case after McCarrick, a non-resident, left the state.

His alleged victim in a court filing on Wednesday said the case "was to have provided a modest level of payback" after he suffered years of abuse at McCarrick's hands.

"McCarrick walks a free man and I am left with nothing," the alleged victim wrote.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andy Sullivan, David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)