DEDHAM, Mass.

The trial of former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy decades ago, has been dismissed by a Massachusetts judge. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys came to an agreement that McCarrick, who is now 93 years old, suffers from dementia.

A Scandalous Past

McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after being found guilty of sexually molesting both adults and children. The scandal surrounding McCarrick shook the Catholic Church to its core, as it revealed that Vatican and U.S. church leaders had knowledge of his improper conduct with seminarians but chose to overlook it. Despite his misconduct, McCarrick managed to climb the ranks of the U.S. church due to his fundraising skills and influential role as an advisor to three popes.

Dementia Diagnosis

McCarrick’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case, presenting evidence from a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The expert concluded that McCarrick suffers from dementia.

During the court hearing, Dr. Kerry Nelligan, a psychologist hired by the prosecution, stated that she observed significant memory deficits in McCarrick during their interviews in June. He often struggled to remember what had been discussed, even within the span of an hour. Nelligan explained that there are no medications available to improve symptoms associated with dementia.

Nelligan emphasized that McCarrick’s cognitive deficits are not temporary and will not improve over time, making it impossible for him to actively participate in his defense or contribute meaningfully to discussions.

A Fading Figure

McCarrick attended the court hearing via video link. He appeared slumped in his chair, donning a light-green shirt and a gray sweater draped over his shoulders. Throughout the proceedings, he remained silent.

The charges against McCarrick pertained to the alleged sexual abuse of a teenage boy at a wedding reception held at Wellesley College in 1974. McCarrick has consistently maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty when charged in September 2021.

Additionally, he faces separate charges of sexual assault against an 18-year-old man in Wisconsin that date back more than 45 years.

Despite the dismissal of this case, the impact of McCarrick’s actions and the ensuing scandal continue to reverberate throughout the Catholic Church.

The Case of Theodore McCarrick

In February, Theodore McCarrick’s attorneys sought to have the case against him dismissed. They claimed that a professor from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, specializing in psychiatry and behavioral science, had examined McCarrick and determined that he suffers from dementia, likely Alzheimer’s disease.

According to his lawyers, McCarrick had a limited understanding of the criminal proceedings brought against him.

Currently residing in Dittmer, Missouri, McCarrick faces charges of three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14. Despite leaving Massachusetts, he is not exempt from these charges that pertain to abuse allegations dating back decades. The statute of limitations was paused once he left the state.

Mitchell Garabedian, a renowned lawyer representing clergy sexual-abuse victims and the man accusing McCarrick, expressed disappointment with the prosecution’s expert findings. In June, Garabedian stated that many victims of clergy sexual abuse perceive McCarrick as the permanent embodiment of evil within the Catholic Church.

The accuser, who remains anonymous according to the Associated Press’s policy, reported during a 2021 interview that McCarrick had a close relationship with their family while growing up. Prosecutors allege that McCarrick would often attend family gatherings and join them on vacations. The victim referred to him as “Uncle Ted.”

Prosecutors maintain that McCarrick subjected the victim to years of abuse, including incidents at his brother’s wedding reception held at Wellesley College when the victim was 16. They claim that McCarrick also sexually assaulted the victim in a coatroom after they returned to the reception.

According to prosecutors, McCarrick instructed the victim to recite the “Hail Mary” and “Our Father” before leaving the room.

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