Former U.S. Cardinal McCarrick seeks to dismiss sexual abuse case, citing dementia

Former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick wears a mask during arraignment at Dedham District Court
Former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick wears a mask during arraignment at Dedham District Court, facing charges that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old boy during a wedding reception at Wellesley College in 1974, in Dedham, Massachusetts, U.S., September 3, 2021. David L Ryan/Pool via REUTERS

BOSTON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Lawyers for former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick on Monday asked a Massachusetts judge to dismiss a criminal case charging him with molesting a 16-year-old boy in 1974, saying the 92-year-old is not mentally competent to face trial due to dementia.

McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, D.C., last July became the only current or former U.S. Catholic cardinal to ever face child sex abuse charges after prosecutors charged him with three counts of indecent assault and battery.

Defense lawyers in a motion filed in Dedham District Court said an examination by a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found McCarrick has dementia, likely due to Alzheimer’s disease.

His lawyers argued that although McCarrick remains "intelligent and articulate," his dementia, and the resulting decline in his memory, renders him incapable of meaningfully assisting in his defense.

"In short, Mr. McCarrick's dementia severely constrains his constitutional rights to establish his own innocence," defense lawyers including Daniel Marx and Barry Coburn wrote.

During a hearing on Monday, the prosecution told Judge Michael Pomarole that it plans to hire an expert for its own evaluation. The next hearing is April 20.

McCarrick, who is free on bail and lives in Missouri, was expelled from the Roman Catholic priesthood in 2019 after a Vatican investigation found him guilty of sexual crimes against minors and adults.

The case is the only criminal prosecution he has faced despite lawsuits by other men accusing him of sexual abuse decades ago. A legal quirk froze the statute of limitations in the case after McCarrick, a non-resident, left Massachusetts.

According to court records, the alleged victim said McCarrick, a family friend, began molesting him when he was a boy.

The man told police that during his brother's wedding reception in 1974 at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, McCarrick groped him as they walked around campus before taking him into a small closet-like room and fondling him.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston Editing by Alistair Bell

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at