Former U.S. archbishop resigns from College of Cardinals amid sex abuse scandal

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By Saphora Smith and Alanna Satur and Claudio Lavanga  with NBC News World News
Former U.S. archbishop resigns from College of Cardinals amid sex abuse scandal
Copyright  REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo

LONDON — Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who last month became one of the highest-ranking American to be removed from public ministry because of sex abuse allegations, has resigned from the College of Cardinals in the Vatican.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation and ordered McCarrick — the former head of the Archdiocese of Washington and a well-known religious figure around the world — to observe a life of prayer and penance in seclusion, according to a statement released by the Holy See on Saturday.

The statement said he was obliged to "remain in a house yet to be indicated to him ... until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial."

The announcement follows the Vatican's decision to remove McCarrick from public ministry, in light of what law enforcement described as "credible and substantiated" allegations of sexual abuse involving a minor while he was working as a priest in New York.

As the Vatican made its announcement last month, Roman Catholic Church officials in New Jersey revealed that the 87-year-old cardinal had also been accused of sexual misconduct by adults three times in the past. Two of those accusations resulted in secret settlements, officials said.

In response to the announcements last month, McCarrick denied wrongdoing and said he was "shocked" when he learned of the allegation involving a minor some months ago. He added that he supported a thorough investigation by the police and the Archdiocese of New York.