Former Washington archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick is being sued by a man who accuses the defrocked former cardinal of sexually abusing him when he was a teenager at a Catholic church in Hackensack, New Jersey, in the 1990s.
The lawsuit — one of several filed under a new state law that gives victims of sex abuse more time to make legal claims — says that Mr. McCarrick benefited from a “speak no evil” attitude among Catholic officials, who downplayed or outright dismissed accusations of sexual misconduct by priests for decades. Mr. McCarrick served as archbishop of Newark from 1986 to 2000.
Sunday was the first day New Jersey’s new law went into effect, easing statute of limitations restrictions on clerical sex abuse lawsuits.
At a press conference Monday in New Jersey, John Bellocchio said he hopes his lawsuit against Mr. McCarrick will help him to “be able to move forward, and to help the Catholic Church moved forward, because it is time that they own, claim, and acknowledge their sins and clean the house from the top down.” Mr. Bellocchio was 13 or 14 years old during the time of the alleged abuse, according to his lawsuit.
“McCarrick has been protected for decades and given safe harbor in his predatory ways,” said Mr. Anderson, who specializes in clerical abuse lawsuits.
Mr. McCarrick, who reportedly is living in a friary in Kansas, was unavailable for comment. The Archdiocese of Newark did not respond to a request for comment.
On Monday, archdiocese officials issued a statement saying they are working with law enforcement officials.
As recently as 2018, the archdiocese has said that officials were aware of sex abuse allegations against Mr. McCarrick involving seminarians going back three decades, but none of those accusations included children.
Mr. McCarrick was stripped of the title “cardinal” in July 2018 and in February became the highest-ranking Catholic official to be defrocked amid reports of sex abuse allegations involving children and seminarians in New York and New Jersey going back 40 years. He served as archbishop of Washington from 2000 to 2006, and no allegations have been made against him during his tenure there.
Meanwhile in another lawsuit filed Monday, two of six sisters say that a now-deceased priest who served the Archdiocese of Newark had abused them and their siblings for nearly 10 years after he was transferred to Pennsylvania.
“This is a momentous day for our family because we can finally move forward in our search for justice,” one of the sisters, Patty Fortney-Julius, said Monday at a news conference.
The law enacted in New Jersey earlier this year allows child sex abuse victims to sue their abusers until they turn 55. A similar relaxation of limitation statutes has been enacted in other states, such as neighboring New York, where the Roman Catholic Church spent $10.6 million in opposition of the legislation.
Reports estimate the new wave of lawsuits could cost the church as much as $4 billion.
The complaint notes various officials, including a faculty member at a seminary, flagging higher-ups within the Catholic church’s line of bishops about their misgivings over Mr. McCarrick’s conduct, to no avail.
“I want there to be real, effective change from the top down,” Mr. Bellocchio said Monday. “It is time for the bishops, the archbishops, the cardinals, and even the Holy Father to stop hiding behind their titles and their robes and acknowledge the truth that lies in front of them.”
Mr. McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958, became an auxiliary bishop in New York in 1977 and bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey in 1981.
As one of the church’s most influential officials, he twice led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ migration committee and was one of the church’s key fundraisers.
⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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