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McCarrick, top US cardinal, defrocked by Vatican over sexual abuse allegations

CNN logo CNN 2/16/2019 By Hada Messia and Rob Picheta, CNN
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 08: Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, speaks during a news conference with senators and national religious leaders to respond to attempts at vilifying refugees and to call on lawmakers to engage in policymaking and not 'fear-mongering' at the U.S. Capitol December 8, 2015 in Washington, DC. Following last week's mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calinfornia, leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called on Monday for the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 08: Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, speaks during a news conference with senators and national religious leaders to respond to attempts at vilifying refugees and to call on lawmakers to engage in policymaking and not 'fear-mongering' at the U.S. Capitol December 8, 2015 in Washington, DC. Following last week's mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calinfornia, leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called on Monday for the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Vatican has dismissed former US cardinal Theodore McCarrick after a Church trial found him guilty of sexually abusing minors.

McCarrick, who once led the Archdiocese of Washington and was recognized as a powerful advocate of the Catholic Church's political priorities, was informed of the decision on Friday, a Vatican statement said.

The judgement was recognized by the Pope to be a "definitive nature," and is "res iudicata" -- meaning it is no longer subject to appeal.

Allegations that McCarrick had sexually abused seminarians and an altar boy decades ago had left the Church reeling in recent years, prompting serious questions among Catholic leaders as to why he was allowed to rise through the Church ranks.

A letter from a top Vatican official obtained by CNN last year appeared to acknowledge that the Holy See knew about the allegations for at least several months before McCarrick was elevated to cardinal in 2001.

He subsequently led the Archdiocese of Washington until 2006, frequently meeting political leaders and becoming a force in American politics.

McCarrick is one of the most high-profile figures to be expelled from the Church during the sex abuse crisis that has roiled the institution in recent decades.

He has previously denied the allegations, saying he has "absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse."

But Pope Francis ordered a Vatican investigation into the accusations in 2017, and McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals last year.

Patrick Noaker, the attorney for the former altar boy who made the accusation against McCarrick, said last June that his client was molested twice by McCarrick, once in 1971 and once the following year.

Both alleged incidents, Noaker said, occurred at St. Patrick's Cathedral as his client was being fitted for a cassock for Christmas Mass.

"McCarrick started measuring him, then he unzipped his pants, stuck his hand in and grabbed his genitals," Noaker said. The lawyer said his client, who was about 16 at the time and a student at a Catholic high school in New York, pushed McCarrick away. "One thing he distinctly remembers is that McCarrick told him not to tell anyone about it," Noaker said.

In the weeks after the allegations were made public, others came forward to say McCarrick had sexually abused them, according to published reports.

An investigation by the Archdiocese of New York found the allegations against McCarrick to be "credible and substantiated" and handed the matter over to law enforcement last year.

CNN's Valentina Di Donato, Daniel Burke and Angela Dewan contributed to this report.

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