Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick was born in New York City on July 7, 1930 to Theodore Egan McCarrick and Margaret McLaughlin. The young McCarrick attended Catholic elementary school and Fordham Preparatory School. He studied in Europe for a year and a half before returning to Fordham University, his mind already made up to study for the priesthood. He entered St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, NY, where he earned a BA in 1954 and a Master’s Degree in History in 1958. Francis Cardinal Spellman ordained him to the priesthood on May 31, 1958 in New York City. He went on to earn a second Master’s degree in Social Sciences and a Ph.D. in Sociology from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
Father McCarrick’s first assignment was as assistant chaplain of Catholic University where he went on to serve as dean of students and as director of development. He was named president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce in 1965, where he was responsible for the intense development of the school as a major institution. That same year he received the title of monsignor from Pope Paul VI. In 1969, Terence Cardinal Cooke recalled Msgr. McCarrick to New York to serve as associate secretary for education and an assistant priest at Blessed Sacrament parish from 1969-1971 and then as the Cardinal’s Secretary from 1971-1977.
In 1977, Pope Paul VI named Msgr. McCarrick Auxiliary Bishop of New York. While auxiliary bishop, he served as Vicar of East Manhattan and the Harlems. In 1981, Pope John Paul II appointed him to be the first Bishop of Metuchen, a newly-established diocese in New Jersey. From 1986 until his appointment to the Archdiocese of Washington, he served as the fourth Archbishop of Newark.
In 1986 and again in 1992, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) elected then-Archbishop McCarrick to head its Committee on Migration. In 1992, he also was named to head the Committee for Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe; in 1996, as chair of the Committee on International Policy; and in 2001, as Chairman of the Domestic Policy Committee. Other USCCB committees on which the Cardinal has served are Administrative, Doctrine, Laity, Latin America and the Missions. He was elected one of 15 U.S. bishops to serve as a member of the Synod for America held in 1997. At the conclusion of that Synod, the bishops elected him to serve on the Post Synodal Council.
A founding member of the Papal Foundation, he has served as its president since 1997. Cardinal McCarrick also is a member of the Board of Catholic Relief Services. For the Vatican, he serves on the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See.
He has visited many nations as a human rights advocate and to survey humanitarian needs. These include China, Cuba, Iran, Vietnam, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Rwanda and Burundi. He also has traveled extensively in Eastern Europe and Central America. In November 1996, then-Archbishop McCarrick was invited to serve on the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad and from 1999-2001, he was a member of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom.
In January 2000, the President of Lebanon named him an Officer of the Order of the Cedars of Lebanon and in December 2000, the president of the United States presented him with the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, just two of many honors he has received.
On January 2, 2001, he was installed as Archbishop of Washington, a position he held until May 16, 2006. Just seven weeks after his installation, on February 21, 2001, he was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II. He took possession of his titular church, Ss. Nereus and Achilleus, on June 28, 2001.
As Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal McCarrick served as chancellor of The Catholic University of America and president of the Board of Trustees of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and placed an emphasis on education, vocations and meeting the needs of new immigrants, particularly in the Latino community.
In Fall 2001, he opened a new seminary, Redemptoris Mater, to educate diocesan missionary priests. These men will serve both in the Archdiocese of Washington and in overseas missions after ordination. In May 2006, Cardinal McCarrick dedicated a permanent home for the seminary, located in Hyattsville, Maryland. Later that month, the Cardinal ordained 12 men to the priesthood, the largest ordination class in the Archdiocese since the 1970s.
Under his guidance, the Archdiocese of Washington undertook a major capital campaign, Forward in Faith, between 2003 and 2005. The campaign, whose funds are earmarked to support education, vocations, parish and social service needs into the future, resulted in $185 million in pledges, or $50 million over the $135 million goal.Forward in Faith was one of the most successful capital campaigns in U.S. diocesan history.
Education has always been a priority for Cardinal McCarrick and is a major component of Forward in Faith. In 2004, he supported the creation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship program, a Federal program that gives low-income families the ability to choose a public or non-public school for their children. As a result of his leadership, Catholic schools in the District have welcomed approximately 1,000 scholarship recipients. The Cardinal also initiated plans to open a new high school, the first Archdiocesan high school to open in decades, in Fall 2007. The Cristo Rey school, in Takoma Park, Maryland, will offer a unique work-study program for students from moderate- and low-income families.
During his five years as Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal McCarrick oversaw the start of a multi-cultural and social service center in Wheaton, Maryland; the establishment of a Lay Leadership Institute in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, which will have a special focus on the Hispanic community; and the reorganization of four of the Archdiocese’s social service agencies into one organization, Catholic Community Services, which serves over 120,000 people each year.
He traveled around the world, including trips to areas affected by major natural disasters, such as Central America, Sri Lanka and Louisiana and Mississippi post-Hurricane Katrina, to ensure people in need would receive assistance, and to bring prayer and financial support.
He also continued to travel on behalf of Catholic Relief Services, and to fulfill various responsibilities for the Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Among many notable events, Cardinal McCarrick was one of 115 Cardinals in the world who participated in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI as the successor to Pope John Paul II in April 2005.
Cardinal McCarrick speaks five languages: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.