A former cardinal in the Catholic Church, who was defrocked by Pope Francis after an investigation found he had sexually molested adults and children, has been charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy during a wedding reception in the 1970s, court records show.
Theodore McCarrick is charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14, according to court documents obtained by The Boston Globe newspaper.
McCarrick is the first cardinal in the US to ever be criminally charged with a sexual crime against a child, according to Mitchell Garabedian, a well-known lawyer for church sexual abuse victims who is representing the man alleging the abuse by McCarrick.
"It takes an enormous amount of courage for a sexual abuse victim to report having been sexually abused to investigators and proceed through the criminal process," Garabedian said in an email. “Let the facts be presented, the law applied, and a fair verdict rendered.”
Barry Coburn, an attorney for McCarrick, told The Associated Press that they “look forward to addressing the case in the courtroom," and declined further comment.
Last year a Vatican investigation into McCarrick found that a series of bishops, cardinals and popes downplayed or dismissed reports that he slept with seminarians.
In the two-year enquiry, it was determined that Pope Francis had merely continued his predecessors’ "naive" handling of McCarrick until a former altar boy alleged abuse.
The Vatican took the extraordinary step of publishing its investigation of the American prelate's rise and fall in a bid to restore credibility to the US and Vatican hierarchies, which have been shattered by the McCarrick scandal.
Francis defrocked McCarrick, 90, last year after a Vatican investigation confirmed decades of allegations that the globe-trotting envoy and successful church fundraiser had sexually molested adults as well as children.
In the report filed in court on Thursday, it says the accuser told investigators McCarrick was a family friend and began abusing him when he was a boy.
The man says McCarrick groped him when he was 16 in 1974 as they walked around the campus of Wellesley College, where his brother's wedding reception was being held.
The man also alleges that McCarrick led him into a room and fondled the boy before telling him to “say three our fathers and a Hail Mary or it was one our father and three Hail Marys, so God can redeem you of your sins," according to the court documents.
Rumours about McCarrick, now 91, created a credibility crisis for the church since the Vatican had reports from authoritative cardinals dating to 1999 that McCarrick’s behaviour was problematic.
Despite this, he became an influential cardinal, kingmaker and emissary of the Holy See’s “soft diplomacy.”