| 29.07,18. 06:46 AM |
Pope Francis accepts resignation of Cardinal McCarrick following sex abuse scandal
Photo: McCarrick was ordered to remain in a house for a "life of prayer and penance" until a trial is held. (AP: Jonathan Newton)
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation as a cardinal of Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, DC and one of the US Catholic Church's most prominent figures, who has been at the centre of allegations of sex abuse with minors and young seminarians.
Theodore McCarrick, 88, is the first cardinal in living memory to lose his red hat and title. Other cardinals who have been disciplined in sexual abuse scandals kept their membership in the College of Cardinals and their honorific "your eminence".
The scandal surrounding him has stunned the American Church because he was a widely respected leader for decades and was a confidant of popes and presidents.
"Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the cardinalate and has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial," a statement said.
Last month, American Church officials said allegations he sexually abused a 16-year-old boy almost 50 years ago were credible.
Since then another minor, who was 11 at the time of the first alleged instance of abuse, said a sexually abusive relationship continued for two more decades.
Several other men have also come forward to allege that the former cardinal had forced them to sleep with him at a beach house in New Jersey when they were adult seminarians studying for the priesthood.
McCarrick said he had "absolutely no recollection" of the alleged abuse of the teenager 50 years ago but has not commented on the allegations of abuse of adult men and another minor that were brought forward later.
'A major gap' in Church policy
The New York Times reported last week that two dioceses in New Jersey, where the former cardinal served as bishop before being promoted to Washington in 2000, had reached financial settlements in 2005 and 2007 with men who said they were abused by McCarrick as adults decades ago.
Some US Catholics have said the Vatican should send an inspector to the United States to determine who in the US Church hierarchy knew of the alleged incidents and why McCarrick's rise was not impeded.
Last Tuesday, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston said he was "deeply troubled" by the case, saying it and others pointed to "a major gap" in Church policy on sexual conduct and sexual abuse by bishops or other top officials.
While most of the scandals involving paedophile clergy have involved rank-and-file priests, some cases involved bishops, and there are a few involving cardinals, including a current case in Australia of one of Pope Francis' closest advisers, Cardinal George Pell, who now faces a criminal trial in his homeland.
Bishops have been implicated in the sexual abuse scandals that have stained the Catholic church's reputation worldwide for decades, but often for their roles in covering up for paedophile priests by shuffling them from parish to parish and keeping the faithful in the dark about the allegations about clergy whose pastoral duties often bring them into contact with minors.
Earlier this month, an Australia bishop became the most senior Roman Catholic cleric to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse.
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson was sentenced to 12 months in detention by an Australian court in a landmark case welcomed by some abuse survivors as a strong warning to institutions that fail to protect children.