*WARNING: Some of the details in this article are graphic and may be difficult to read.
A Virginia man who says he was abused by former Archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick spoke to News4 following the Vatican's announcement that McCarrick has been stripped of his cardinal title.
McCarrick served as Archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006. Allegations of sexual abuse surfaced in June, including from a Loudoun County man named James who says McCarrick exposed himself to him when he was 11 and continued a sexually abusive relationship with him for more than two decades.
“All of my life, from age 11 to 60, I have lived in a prison and it has not been easy. Today, I’m opening up that door. I’m walking out to the street and letting the sun hit my face for the first time ever. Truly a free man,” James told News4.
James requested that News4 only identify him by his first name.
He said the alleged abuse first began at his family's house.
“I’m standing in my room and I’m naked. I’m 11 and I’m not too happy about that. ... He says, 'Turn around, turn around.' I don’t want to turn around. 'Turn around, come on' and he drops his pants and he says, 'See, we’re the same. We're the same. It’s ok,'” James said.
He said his family had a close relationship with McCarrick from the time he was ordained in 1958 and they were told to call him "Uncle Teddy."
"I was raised to trust the Catholic church; I was raised to trust McCarrick,” James said.
James said McCarrick intimidated him and told him he was "nothing."
"You ruined my life. For what? For you to feel great? You ruined, you ruined, you ruined my life. You took everything from it. I could not feel any emotion. I could never have intimacy. I could never fall in love with anybody and you took it," James said.
James first went public in the New York Times.
"While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people," McCarrick said in a statement in June about allegations against him.
Pope Francis on Saturday accepted McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals, the group of church leaders that advises the pope.
The move to swiftly accept a resignation breaks with the precedence of waiting until the Catholic church investigation is finished.
“I think this was a big step forward in trying to act quickly, decisively, even though the whole procedure isn’t concluded yet,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl who succeeded McCarrick as the Archbishop of Washington, told WTOP in an exclusive interview. “The pope is saying that we need to show that we are hearing these things, paying attention and acting.”
Francis ordered McCarrick to conduct a "life of prayer and penance" before a church trial is held. McCarrick is also prohibited from making any public appearances.
Wuerl told WTOP that type of public banishment has happened to priests and bishops before, but McCarrick’s resignation now extends it to a cardinal.
“This decision highlights for me … that the pope takes very seriously the allegation of an abuse of a minor,” Wuerl said. He said both McCarrick’s resignation and the pope’s acceptance of it mean that “if we’re moving forward, these are signs of that progress.”
The Archdiocese of Washington issued the following statement on Sunday:
"For more than 30 years, the Archdiocese of Washington has encouraged survivors of sexual abuse to come forward, and has sought to not only address claims of abuse swiftly, but to also offer assistance to survivors of abuse in the hope of bringing healing to those who have been harmed.
"When the first claim against Archbishop McCarrick was filed in the Archdiocese of New York, the Archdiocese of Washington reviewed its own files and found no complaints of any kind made against Archbishop McCarrick. Further, the confidential settlements involving acts by Archbishop McCarrick in the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark were not known previously to Cardinal Wuerl or the Archdiocese of Washington.
"In the aftermath of these claims in New York, Newark and Metuchen, we now have individuals courageously stepping forward – though anonymously due to understandable privacy concerns – and speaking to the media regarding additional claims of abuse by Archbishop McCarrick that heretofore were not known to the Archdiocese of Washington. These experiences shared by survivors are profoundly troubling and represent a breach of trust and wounding that no person should bear alone. Cardinal Wuerl again recently affirmed that those coming forward with new allegations show also a confidence in the Church to take seriously these charges and act quickly in responding.
"We continue to pray for the survivors of such abuse and understand how difficult it is to share such painful memories. While the struggle to confront such experiences is difficult for survivors, the archdiocese wishes to accompany them and help them through this process. The archdiocese encourages all coming forward to share these experiences with any diocese in which they reside so that these grave issues can be reviewed promptly by Church authorities, and that we can offer assistance to begin the process for healing and peace."