Pope Francis has defrocked former U.S. Cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, after he was found guilty of soliciting for sex while hearing confession and of sexual crimes against minors and adults.
The 88-year-old McCarrick is the highest-ranking Catholic churchman to be laicized, as the process is called. It means he can no longer celebrate Mass or other sacraments, wear clerical vestments or be addressed by any religious title.
Defrocking, unfrocking, or laicization of clergy is the removal of their rights to exercise the functions of the ordained ministry.
He is the first churchman who reached the rank of cardinal to be defrocked in the church’s sex abuse scandals.
The punishment for the once-powerful prelate was announced five days before Francis leads an extraordinary gathering of bishops from around the world to help the church grapple with the crisis of sex abuse by clergy and the systematic cover-ups by church hierarchy.
The decades-long scandals have shaken the faith of many Catholics and threaten Francis’ papacy.
The scandal swirling around McCarrick was particularly damning to the church’s reputation because it apparently was an open secret in some church circles that he slept with adult seminarians.
Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal in July after a U.S. church investigation determined that an allegation he fondled a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible.
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