By Damien Fisher
(OSV News) — Disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick is not competent to stand trial in Massachusetts on charges that he sexually abused a teenage boy nearly 50 years ago, according to the prosecution’s expert brought in to examine the now 92-year-old.
On Thursday, Norfolk County Assistant District Attorney Lisa Beatty submitted the state’s report to Dedham District Court Judge Michael Pomarole, which stated that the Commonwealth’s medical examiner found MCarrick not currently competent to participate in the criminal trial. A defense expert made the same assessment in February. This could result in the dismissal of the charges in this case, in which McCarrick faces three counts of indecent assault and battery of a person over the age of 14.
The prosecution’s report itself is not being made public, and Pomarole has yet to make the final decision on McCarrick’s status. It is unlikely there are medical treatments that can restore McCarrick to competency, given the claims he has dementia.
Pomarole will consider both the prosecution and defense reports at an upcoming Aug. 30 hearing.
If convicted, McCarrick could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison on each individual count. McCarrick pleaded not guilty in September 2021.
McCarrick was recently charged with sexual assault in Wisconsin over an alleged incident that took place in 1977. It’s not clear if the eventual Massachusetts decision on his ability to stand trial will impact the Wisconsin case.
Even if he is determined to be unable to go to trial on the criminal charges, that does not end the legal jeopardy for a man once considered to be the one of the most powerful clerics in the American Church.
Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents the Massachusetts victim, still plans to pursue civil lawsuits filed in other states against McCarrick. The alleged victim is reportedly disappointed with the prosecution’s report.
Garabedian said he does not believe McCarrick being found incompetent will prevent the civil cases from proceeding. “By proceeding with the civil lawsuits my client is empowering himself, other clergy sexual abuse victims, and making the world a safer place for children,” he said.
McCarrick’s lawyers, Barry Couburn and Daniel Marx, first raised the competency issue in February when they filed a motion to have the charges dismissed based on a report from a medical expert they hired. The defense attorneys claimed McCarrick 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 his counsel or to effectively assist in his own defense,” Coburn and Marx wrote.
The defense report, prepared by Dr. David Schretlen, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is also under seal.
Prosecutors responded to the Schretlen report by hiring their own medical expert. That expert flew to Missouri to examine McCarrick, and also reviewed his medical records, before coming to the conclusion he cannot go to trial.
The Massachusetts case started in 2021, when McCarrick was charged for the alleged assaults. According to court records, McCarrick was close to the victim’s family, celebrating Masses for them and even going on family trips. The victim told investigators that McCarrick abused him during trips out of state. It was also under the guise of providing spiritual direction to the victim that the abuse took place, according to the criminal complaint.
One incident allegedly took place in the 1970s at the wedding reception for the victim’s brother, which was held on the Wellesley College campus. McCarrick allegedly got the victim, 16 at this time, to go outside with him to talk about the victim not attending Mass. During this encounter, McCarrick fondled the victim, according to the criminal complaint.
Allegedly, the pair went back to the reception, where McCarrick told the victim he had to go to confession, using a closet for privacy. Then, using the sacrament as cover, McCarrick continued to abuse the boy, according to the complaint. McCarrick gave the boy three Our Fathers and a Hail Mary as penance, according to the complaint.
McCarrick, known for his charm and his fundraising prowess, has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of child and adult victims over decades, a scandal that finally became public in 2018. After the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now dicastery) found McCarrick guilty of abuse in 2019, he was laicized by Pope Francis.
(Damien Fisher writes for OSV News from New Hampshire.)