The Vatican announced Saturday that former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., has been "dismissed from the clerical state," with the canonical process having found him guilty of sex abuse. File Photo by Patrick D. McDermott/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 16 (UPI) -- The Vatican said Saturday it defrocked former cardinal of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick, after finding him guilty of sex abuse.
Defrocking is the most significant abuse-related punishment given to a past cardinal in modern Roman Catholic Church history, stripping him of the rights of priesthood.
The Vatican formally describes the penalty as being "dismissed from the clerical state."
Pope Francis said Saturday that McCarrick, 88, is not allowed further appeal after the Church found him guilty of the decades-old abuse days earlier.
"Today I am happy that the pope believed me," said James Grein, a Virginia man who said McCarrick abused him starting at age 11. "I am hopeful now I can pass through my anger for the last time. I hope that Cardinal McCarrick will no longer be able to use the power of Jesus' Church to manipulate families and sexually abuse children."
The Congress of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith found him guilty last month of "solicitation in Confession" and sins with minors and adults along "with the aggravating circumstance of the abuse of power."
McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July amid fallout from an Archdiocese Review Board investigation into allegations he abused a teenage altar boy while he was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. The pope prohibited him from exercising public ministry at the time and requested that he lead a life of prayer and penance.
McCarrick likely won't face criminal prosecution because the allegations surpass the statue of limitations.
Still, the Catholic Church considers defrocking the most severe canonical punishment a cleric can receive, worse than excommunication since that can be temporary if the person doesn't persist in sin.
"He was cardinal up until a few months ago. Today, he is Mr. McCarrick," said the Rev. Davide Cito, a canon lawyer at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. "This is a humiliation in that world such as one cannot imagine."
Pope Francis in October authorized further study of archived office documents on McCarrick after a preliminary probe found allegations against him to be "credible and substantiated."