The former head of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. has been removed from public ministry after a sexual abuse claim involving a teenager was determined "credible and substantiated."
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, 87, was accused of sexually abusing a teenager nearly 50 years ago while serving at the time as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.
His removal from public ministry makes McCarrick one of the highest-ranking American leaders of the Catholic Church to be removed from his duties by the Vatican after a sexual abuse claim.
The Vatican made the decision to remove him from public ministry after a claim of sexual abuse was made and The Holy See, the universal government of the Catholic Church which operates from Vatican City, instructed Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archdiocese of New York, to investigate.
According to Dolan, the claim was then investigated by law enforcement officials, an independent forensics agency and the Archdiocesan Review Board. After review, the board found the allegations to be credible and substantiated.
McCarrick has proclaimed his innocence in the matter, but said he will accept the decision of the church.
"While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people," he said in a statement provided by the Archdiocese of Washington.
While this is the first time McCarrick has been accused of sexual abuse with a minor, Catholic Church officials have also revealed that he has been accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with adults.
"In the past, there have been allegations that he engaged in sexual behavior with adults," Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the Archdiocese of Newark said in a statement. "This Archdiocese and the Diocese of Metuchen received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements."
McCarrick said he was "shocked" when the allegations with a minor were reported and his "sadness was deepened" when he learned of the review board's decision.
McCarrick served as the Archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006 and helped select the current pope while he was a cardinal, according to NBC News.
The Catholic Church said it remains committed to investigating any allegations of sexual abuse.
"This archdiocese, while saddened and shocked, asks prayers for all involved, and renews its apology to all victims abused by priests," Dolan wrote. "We also thank the victim for courage in coming forward and participating in our Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, as we hope this can bring a sense of resolution and fairness."
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