New sex abuse lawsuit names Theodore McCarrick, Fr. Michael Barrett

Matt HadroChristine Rousselle   By Matt HadroChristine Rousselle for CNA

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York / John Bilous/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2021 / 14:06 pm (CNA).

A new civil sex abuse lawsuit has been filed against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, also naming Opus Dei priest Fr. Michael Barrett, who is currently a pastor in the Archdiocese of New York.

Jeffrey Anderson, a prominent attorney who represents sex abuse victims, announced the allegations against Barrett and McCarrick on Wednesday in a press conference that was broadcast online.

“My youth, my childhood was robbed from me,” said the plaintiff in the case, who filed the lawsuit anonymously, during the online press conference. He said he was “abused by two people involved in the Catholic Church, and this is Fr. Michael Barrett and Cardinal McCarrick – who wasn’t a cardinal then, and he should have never become one.”

According to Anderson, the plaintiff was abused by Barrett beginning at age 12, and the abuse continued for “three to four years.”

The Archdiocese of New York did not immediately respond to CNA’s request for comment on Wednesday. A spokesman for Opus Dei said the prelature was not aware of the accusation before the announcement of the lawsuit.

“Your email is the first time that we have heard that such an accusation had been made against Father Michael Barrett, or that a lawsuit has been filed,” stated Brian Finnerty, U.S. communications director for Opus Dei, in response to CNA’s request for comment on Wednesday.

“After receiving your email, I contacted Father Barrett, and he informed me that this is also the first time he has heard of it,” Finnerty told CNA. “It is impossible to comment further until we know more about the accusation and the lawsuit.”

The lawsuit was filed under New York’s Child Victims Act, a law which created a temporary window for new civil sex abuse lawsuits to be filed in old cases where the statute of limitations had already expired. The time window for civil lawsuits expires on Aug. 14.

Fr. Barrett was then a lay person “heavily involved with Opus Dei” when he allegedly “invited and recruited” the plaintiff to an Opus Dei house, Anderson said. Barrett was “grooming” the plaintiff at that time, which “led to criminal sexual assault.”

Barrett ultimately became a priest with Opus Dei, and is currently a pastor at St. Agnes parish in the New York archdiocese.

View pdf of lawsuit

The allegations to date to the 1970s. The defendants in the lawsuit are McCarrick, then a priest of the New York archdiocese and secretary to then-Cardinal Terence Cooke, as well as Barrett, then a lay member of Opus Dei, Anderson explained. The archdiocese was also named in the lawsuit for alleged negligence in McCarrick’s case.

According to the lawsuit, McCarrick abused the plaintiff from 1975 to 1978, when he was approximately 13 to 16 years old. Barrett allegedly abused the plaintiff from approximately 1974 to 1978 according to the lawsuit.

Anderson called on Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York to release a list of all clerics the archdiocese has made settlements with, as well as the names of those in the archdiocese known to have committed abuse.

Barrett graduated from Columbia University in 1974 and worked as an account executive for Merrill Lynch. He was ordained a priest in 1985 by Pope John Paul II.

According to the St. Agnes parish website, Barrett served in the past as theological adviser to Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez beginning in 2013. Archbishop Gomez is also a member of Opus Dei.

This story was updated on August 4 with a quote from Opus Dei and with new information.


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