Pope Francis defrocks former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick over sex abuse charges

Pope Francis defrocked former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick on Saturday after Vatican officials found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adults over several decades, several media outlets reported.

>> Read more trending news

McCarrick, 88, was the former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, D.C. It is believed to be the first time that a cardinal or bishop in the United States has been expelled from the Roman Catholic Church, The New York Times reported.

Defrocking, or laicizing, means that McCarrick won’t be allowed to celebrate Mass or other sacraments, the newspaper reported.

The Vatican has laicized hundreds of priests for sexual abuse of minors, but few of the church higher-ranking priests have faced such severe punishment, according to the Times.

“Now you will see that bishops are also treated like their priests,” Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, told the newspaper in a telephone interview. “Bishops and former cardinals are no longer immune to punishment. The reverence that was shown in the past to bishops no longer applies.”

According to the Vatican’s press office, the Congregation of the Doctrine of Holy Faith found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

McCarrick appealed the penalty, but officials rejected it, the newspaper reported. He was notified of the decision on Friday. The pontiff accepted McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals in July and suspended him from all priestly duties. In June, a church panel confirmed a claim that McCarrick had abused an altar boy nearly 50 years ago, the Times reported.