(OSV News) — Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick faces a new charge of sexual assault in Wisconsin, in addition to those he is currently battling in a Massachusetts court.
On April 16, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and Walworth County District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld announced the 92-year-old McCarrick, a once-powerful and influential Catholic cardinal, has been charged with one count of fourth-degree sexual assault for an incident that occurred in April 1977.
According to the complaint, which emerged from a report made to Wisconsin Department of Justice’s (WDOJ) Clergy and Faith Leader Abuse initiative, McCarrick allegedly fondled the victim’s genitals while staying as a guest at a Geneva Lake, Wisconsin, residence. The complaint asserts that McCarrick “engaged in repeated sexual abuse of the victim over time,” said the WDOJ media release.
The release did not specify if the alleged victim was a minor. According to its website, the WDOJ “expects that the vast majority of information gathered during its review will relate to sexual abuse of minors,” but the agency’s scrutiny “will not be limited by a victim’s age at the time of abuse.”
McCarrick pleaded not guilty in September 2021 to charges in Massachusetts that he allegedly sexually abused a boy during a wedding reception at Wellesley College in June 1974. He faces three counts of indecent assault and battery of a person over 14 in that case.
McCarrick’s attorneys Barry Coburn and Daniel Marx filed the Feb. 27 motion seeking to have the Massachusetts charges dismissed, arguing that a mental health evaluation found the former prelate was incompetent to stand trial due to advancing and irreversible dementia.
“While he has a limited understanding of the criminal proceedings against him, his progressive and irreparable cognitive deficits render him unable to meaningfully consult with counsel or to effectively assist in his own defense,” Coburn and Marx stated.
Coburn told OSV News he has “no comment at this time” on the Wisconsin charges for his client. An OSV News inquiry to Marx’s office has not yet received a response.
According to SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), McCarrick is currently living at the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri. OSV News has contacted the center to confirm if McCarrick is a resident and to request comment from him on the Wisconsin charges. A response has not yet been received.
Sara Larson, executive director of AWAKE Milwaukee — an independent nonprofit that supports those who have experienced sexual abuse within the Catholic Church — told OSV News the Wisconsin charges against McCarrick “demonstrate the value of continued investigation into abuse by secular authorities.”
“I am grateful for the courage of the victim-survivors who have chosen to make a report and to seek justice,” said Larson. “It is not an easy step for any person who has experienced sexual abuse.”
McCarrick, once one of the most powerful clerics in the Catholic Church known for his fundraising prowess, has been accused of sexually abusing both adult and child victims over decades, a scandal that burst into public in 2018. After the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now a dicastery) found McCarrick guilty of abuse in 2019, he was laicized by Pope Francis.
McCarrick — whose clerical career and its accompanying allegations of sexual abuse also were detailed in an extensive Vatican report issued in November 2020 — “has become emblematic of … continued problems (with) accountability and transparency in the church” regarding abuse said Larson.
“As a Catholic, I welcome any opportunity to seek the truth, to support survivors and to find opportunities to make our church better,” she said. “I hope all Catholics would do the same.”
Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Damien Fisher contributed to this report.