The Vatican has asked retired Washington, D.C., Archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, to cease public ministry after finding he was credibly accused of sexually abusing a teenager almost 50 years ago, the archdiocese and McCarrick said on Wednesday.
McCarrick is among the highest-ranking of the more than 6,700 U.S. Roman Catholic clerics to be accused of sexually abusing children since the church's sex abuse scandal broke in 2002, according to BishopAccountability.org, a private group that tracks the allegations.
McCarrick, 87, was accused of sexually abusing a teenager when he was a priest in New York, he said in a statement. He said he was innocent, but an investigation by the Church found the allegations to be credible and substantiated, the archdiocese said in a statement.
"The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, at the direction of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has instructed Cardinal McCarrick that he is to refrain from any public ministry or activity until a definite decision is made," the archdiocese said. McCarrick said he would follow the Vatican's instruction.
"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," McCarrick said in a statement.
The clergy sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston and rippled around the globe as abuse was found in many countries, costing the church billions of dollars in settlements and undercutting its moral authority.