Lawyers for former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said in a court filing that the cleric is in "significant" mental decline and might not be fit to stand trial for alleged sexual abuse.
McCarrick, 92, pleaded not guilty in September 2021 to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy during a wedding reception in Massachusetts nearly 50 years ago.
Attorneys on Friday filed a document in Dedham District Court in Massachusetts saying a recent a neurological exam showed that McCarrick was suffering from "significant neuropsychological deficits" that "appear to have started relatively recently, to be worsening rapidly, and to impair both Mr. McCarrick's cognition and his memory," Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported.
The ex-prelate's legal team added that it plans to file a motion to dismiss the case "on the grounds that, in the unusual circumstances of this case, due process forbids his prosecution for misconduct that allegedly occurred 50 years ago."
The neurological exam was conducted early last month by Dr. David Schretlen, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, according to CNA.
The exam took place at a facility in Missouri where McCarrick is living.
"Based on preliminary discussions with Dr. Schretlen, counsel have developed serious concerns that Mr. McCarrick may no longer be legally competent to stand trial, because he would be unable to assist meaningfully in the preparation of his own defense or to consult effectively with counsel during trial with a reasonable degree of rational understanding," the court document states, CNA reported.
"Because the Commonwealth bears the burden to establish that Mr. McCarrick is, in fact, competent to stand trial … it will need adequate time to review the report from Dr. Schretlen and, if necessary, to engage its own expert to evaluate Mr. McCarrick."
McCarrick was last seen publicly at his arraignment in Dedham on Sept. 3, 2021, when he pleaded not guilty to three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14. He made no comment either inside or outside the courthouse that day.
CNA reported McCarrick appeared frail at that time, arriving at the Dedham courthouse wearing a mask and hunched over a walker. He and an attorney slowly walked past reporters and photographers as one person yelled, "Shame on you!"
McCarrick's fall began in 2017 when a former altar boy came forward to report the priest had groped him when he was a teenager in New York. The next year, the Archdiocese of New York announced that McCarrick had been removed from ministry after finding the allegation to be "credible and substantiated," and two New Jersey dioceses revealed they had settled claims of sexual misconduct against him in the past involving adults.
Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick in 2019 after a Vatican investigation determined he sexually abused minors, as well as adults.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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