Former Cardinal Is Ruled Not Competent to Stand Trial in Sex Abuse Case

Theodore McCarrick was the highest-ranking cleric in the nation to face criminal charges in the Catholic church’s sprawling abuse scandal.

Theodore McCarrick grips a walker as he heads into court.
Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., in court in Massachusetts in 2021.Credit...Brian Snyder/Reuters
Ruth Graham

Ruth Graham writes about religion and faith

Jan. 10, 2024

The criminal case against a former cardinal who was once one of the most prominent and revered Catholic leaders in the country was suspended Wednesday, possibly ending efforts to prosecute him on sex abuse charges.

Theodore McCarrick, the highest-ranking Catholic official in the nation to be criminally prosecuted on charges of sexual abuse, was found not competent to stand trial.

Wisconsin county Judge David M. Reddy did not dismiss the case outright, since he said he did not have the power to do so. That decision will be up to District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld, who was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday. His deputy, Jim Sempf, said Mr. Wiedenfeld said Tuesday, the day before the hearing, that he had not wanted to dismiss the charges.

But any future prosecution would likely be difficult. Mr. McCarrick is 93, and his lawyers say he suffers from dementia. The Wisconsin judge said he was “not likely to be competent” within the rest of the statutory time frame that would allow the case to proceed.

The next hearing was not scheduled until December, though the case could be dismissed earlier.

Mr. McCarrick did not attend Wednesday’s hearing. His attorney, Jerome Buting, said the ruling “isn’t a victory or defeat, it’s reality.”


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