Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick. Photograph:( Reuters )
McCarrick, the highest-ranking church figure to be expelled by the Vatican in modern history, was found guilty of sexual abuse of a teenager and misconduct with adult male seminarians by the Vatican
91-year-old Theodore McCarrick, a former US cardinal has been charged with sexually abusing a teenage boy, making him the highest-ranking Roman Catholic official to face criminal charges in the scandal surrounding clergy abuse.
As detailed in a district court filing in Massachusetts, the former archbishop is charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery against a child over 14.
McCarrick, the highest-ranking church figure to be expelled by the Vatican in modern history, was found guilty by the Vatican of sexually abusing one teenage boy in the 1970s and sexual misconduct with adult male seminarians.
According to prosecutors, McCarrick groped the victim as he walked around Wellesley College in Massachusetts during his brother's wedding reception in 1974 when the victim was 16 years old.
The criminal complaint says McCarrick led the victim into a room and groped his genitals while "saying prayers."
He was stripped of his cardinal's title in 2018 before losing his priestly status the following year. McCarrick was instrumental in raising funds for the Holy See from wealthy US donors.
The Vatican published a 450-page report in 2020 concluding McCarrick was able to rise through the ranks of the Church despite multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
It was revealed last November that late John Paul II ignored advice not to promote McCarrick due to rumours of sexual assault that were later proven to be true.
Although several civil lawsuits have been filed against the former cardinal, this is the first criminal case filed against him.
Mitchell Garabedian, the man's lawyer, said his client exhibited great courage in filing the complaint adding that this is the first case where a cardinal was criminally charged with sexual assault against a minor in the United States.
On the other hand, Barry Coburn, McCarrick's attorney, says that the two are eager to face the case in court.
Several scandals involving child sexual abuse have rocked the Catholic Church in recent years.
In 2018, an investigation into Pennsylvania dioceses found that over 300 predator priests committed sexual abuse of children on more than 1,000 children, all of which was covered up.
According to the site bishop-accountability.org, there were 18500 complaints filed against 6,700 clergies between 1950 and 2016.
In the US, several senior church members, including the late cardinal Bernard Law, have resigned for protecting and supporting sex offender priests.
(With inputs from agencies)