Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigns amid sex abuse scandal

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick following allegations of sexual abuse.

McCarrick, who last month became one of the highest-ranking Americans to be removed from public ministry because of sex abuse allegations, has resigned from the College of Cardinals in the Vatican.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation and ordered McCarrick — the former head of the Archdiocese of Washington and a well-known religious figure around the world — to observe a life of prayer and penance in seclusion, according to a statement released by the Holy See on Saturday.

The statement said he was obliged to "remain in a house yet to be indicated to him ... until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial."

The announcement follows the Vatican’s decision last month to remove McCarrick from public ministry in light of allegations of sexual abuse involving a minor while he was working as a priest in New York. After his removal, Roman Catholic Church officials in New Jersey revealed that the 88-year-old cardinal had also been accused of sexual misconduct by adults three times in the past. Two of those accusations resulted in secret settlements, officials said.

The allegations posed a test for Francis who, earlier this year, became the first the pontiff to denounce a "culture of abuse and cover-up" in the Catholic Church. In a letter to the Chilean faithful in May, the pontiff thanked victims for their "valiant perseverance" in searching for the truth.

In response to the announcements last month, McCarrick denied wrongdoing and said he was “shocked” when he learned of the allegation involving a minor some months ago. He added that he supported a thorough investigation by the police and the Archdiocese of New York.

However, a church statement said that McCarrick, who was archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006 and participated in the selection of the current pope as a cardinal, was appealing the finding through the canonical process.

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