Ex-Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (archive image)
Alessandro Bianchi / REUTERS
Former US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is accused of sexually abusing a teenager.
The 91-year-old is alleged to have sexually assaulted and assaulted a child over the age of 14, according to court documents released by a Massachusetts district court on Thursday.
This makes McCarrick the highest-ranking representative of the Catholic Church in the USA against whom a criminal case is pending.
The former Archbishop of Washington was expelled from the priesthood by Pope Francis in 2019.
A Vatican court had previously found McCarrick guilty of sexually abusing a teenager 50 years ago.
McCarrick is also known to have had sex with adult theology students.
Prosecutors accused McCarrick of groping a then 16-year-old at a wedding reception on the campus of Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1974.
The victim alleged, according to the criminal complaint, that McCarrick led him into a room and touched his genitals while he "said prayers."
The ex-cardinal has already faced several civil trials, this is the first criminal case against him.
"This is the first cardinal in the United States to be convicted of a sexual offense against a minor," said the victim's attorney, Mitchell Garabedian.
The Catholic Church has been rocked by a whole series of abuse scandals in recent years.
Between 1950 and 2016, according to the website "bishop-accountability.org", the Catholic Church in the USA received 18,500 complaints against 6,700 church representatives.
mkl / AFP / Reuters