Advocacy group hopes charges against defrocked cardinal inspire abuse victims to come forward

Charges being filed against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick might encourage victims of sexual abuse to come forward, according to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, also known as SNAP.

McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, has been charged in Massachusetts with sexually assaulting a teenage boy there during a wedding reception in 1974.

“We’ve known that he’s a serial predator. The church has known that; they removed him,” said Becky Ianni, SNAP’s leader for Washington D.C. and Virginia.

“I’m very thankful to the secular authorities for finding a way to do this,” she said.

McCarrick was defrocked after a Vatican investigation confirmed he had sexually molested adults as well as children. The 91-year-old former cardinal is now the highest-ranking Catholic official in the United States to face criminal charges for sexually abusing a minor.

“I’m hoping that with this case that other survivors are going to see that the authorities found a way to charge him even though the statute of limitations had run out,” Ianni said. “That might encourage other survivors of McCarrick, or of anybody to come forward. And that’s super important.”

Virginia and D.C. have no statute of limitations on child sex crimes. In Maryland, there is no criminal statute of limitations on sex crimes.

Ianni stressed the importance of parents and members of the community staying vigilant about child sexual abuse. She believes the church can address the issue more aggressively.

“And I think it’s very important for Catholics in the pews not to say, ‘Well, the pope’s done a few things,’ so they can sit back and relax. Everybody needs to do everything they can to keep children safe. And the way they do that is they talk to their children about sex abuse. If they suspect something, go straight to the authorities,” she said. “We need everyone to be proactive, because if the church isn’t going to be, then we need to be.”

Virginia’s hotline for reporting clergy abuse is 833-454-9064. Reports can be made via email to The Clergy Abuse Reporting Form also can be filed online.

Maryland’s Child Sex Abuse Hotline is 410-576-6312. Reports can be sent via email to

In D.C., victims can call 202-252-7008 or email

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up