Attorney General Josh Kaul and Walworth County District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld announced on April 17 that defrocked former Roman Catholic cardinal Theodore McCarrick, has been charged with one count of Fourth-Degree Sexual Assault for an incident that occurred more than 45 years ago.
A criminal complaint filed on April 14 alleges that Theodore McCarrick, who was removed from the priesthood in 2019 after a Vatican investigation found he had sexually molested adults and children, fondled a man in April 1977 while staying at a cabin on Geneva Lake in southeastern Wisconsin.
The alleged victim, who is not named, told investigators that McCarrick had repeatedly sexually assaulted him since he was 11 and even brought him to parties where other adult men sexually assaulted him, according to the complaint.
“Thank you to the brave survivors who have made reports through the clergy and faith leader abuse initiative,” said Attorney General Kaul. “I encourage other survivors who have not yet reported to consider speaking to the victim services specialist at DOJ who is dedicated to this initiative and to make a report.”
McCarrick became the highest-ranking Roman Catholic official in the U.S. to face criminal charges for sexual abuse when he was accused in 2021 of sexually assaulting a teenage boy in Massachusetts at a wedding reception in 1974. His attorneys asked the judge in that case earlier this year to dismiss the charges, saying that McCarrick, now age 92 and suffering from dementia, is not competent to stand trial.
The once-powerful priest was ordained in 1958 and became archbishop in Newark, New Jersey, in 1986 and then archbishop of Washington DC in 2000. He rose to power despite church officials’ knowledge of accusations against him.
A two-year Vatican investigation into McCarrick’s tenure found credible reports of his problematic behavior dating back to 1999, including an inquiry confirming that McCarrick had slept with seminarians.
The church has confirmed it made financial settlements with adults who accused McCarrick of sexual misconduct. McCarrick retired in 2006 but continued to be active in political circles until he was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019.
Wisconsin prosecutors learned of the alleged 1977 assault through a program dedicated to prosecuting instances of abuse by faith leaders, according to a news release. Officials were able to charge McCarrick because the statute of limitations does not apply to people who are not residents of the state.
A similar law allowed Massachusetts prosecutors to bring their case against McCarrick more than 40 years later. As in any criminal proceeding, McCarrick is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Survivors of clergy or faith leader abuse, their friends and family, or anyone who has information about how a religious organization has responded to reported abuse are encouraged to report that information to DOJ either online at SupportSurvivors.widoj.gov or by calling 1-877-222-2620.