The Catholic Church’s leading expert on sex crimes says the French bishops deserve our gratitude for their willingness to face the disclosure of decades of abuse and coverup. “I think we have to thank the […]
Archbishop Eamon Martin. Credit: Northern Ireland Office (CC BY 2.0).
Newry, Northern Ireland, Oct 1, 2021 / 17:16 pm (CNA).
In hopes of supporting dozens of victims of sex abuse by Catholic clergy and other representatives, the Diocese of Dromo… […]
Washington D.C., Sep 16, 2021 / 13:30 pm (CNA).
Three sex abuse lawsuits, including one naming disgraced former archbishop Theodore McCarrick as the alleged abuser, were filed on Thursday, Sept. 16 in a New Jersey court. All three lawsuits also named the Diocese of Metuchen as a defendant.
Jeffrey Anderson, a prominent attorney who represents sex abuse victims, brought the lawsuits. In an online press conference on Thursday, Anderson called on the Metuchen diocese to release additional information on accusations against current and former clergy.
“We challenge you to account and take responsibility for each of these cases, and also challenge you to come clean with the full truth,” Anderson said. “[We] invite you, implore you, to release more names and information that have been kept secret by the Diocese of Metuchen for too long.”
The first lawsuit filed named McCarrick, who served as the first bishop of the diocese from 1981 until 1986, as the abuser in question. According to the lawsuit, McCarrick engaged in “unpermitted sexual contact” with the plaintiff while he was bishop of Metuchen from approximately 1982 to 1985. The plaintiff was between the ages of 19 and 22 during that period.
McCarrick’s attorney Barry Coburn declined to comment on the lawsuit on Thursday.
McCarrick, 91, on July 28 was criminally charged in a Massachusetts court with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14. The incidents allegedly took place with a 16-year-old male in the 1970s. McCarrick appeared for his arraignment on Sept. 3 in Massachusetts’ Dedham District Court, and pleaded “not guilty” to the charges. His next court date is Oct. 28.
He was once an influential and high-ranking figure in the Catholic Church, before numerous accusations against him were made public in 2018, alleging past sexual misconduct with children and seminarians. McCarrick was laicized in February 2019, after a Vatican canonical investigation found him guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”
The second lawsuit filed on Thursday named Fr. John Butler, a laicized priest who died in 2016, as the alleged abuser of a minor. Butler, who was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Richmond, served in numerous dioceses throughout his career including in Metuchen.
According to the lawsuit, Butler engaged in umpermitted sexual contact with a minor between the ages of 9 to 12, from approximately 1995 to 1998. The plaintiff was attending St. John Vianney school in Colonia, New Jersey at the time, where Fr. Butler was employed.
Butler was removed from public ministry in 2002 and was laicized shortly thereafter. He is not on the list of credibly-accused priests from the Diocese of Metuchen, but does appear on the list of accused priests from the Diocese of Richmond, his home diocese.
The third lawsuit names Br. Regis Moccia, S.C. of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, who similarly does not appear on the list of credibly-accused priests from the Diocese of Metuchen. Moccia is accused of abusing a young teen at St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen, in 1981 and 1982. He died in 2000.
Moccia was first accused of abuse in a September 2020 lawsuit; Anderson claimed that this suit inspired another alleged victim of his to come forward.
“It’s also notable that Moccia is not on the list [of credibly-accused clergy] released by the Diocese of Metuchen, even though that suit has been brought by us naming him as an offender of children at St. Joseph’s high school in Metuchen, earlier,” Anderson said on Thursday.
Anderson called on the Diocese of Metuchen to release additional names of credibly accused clergy, and claimed that there are at least 15 additional names that have not yet been released.
The Diocese of Metuchen did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication on Thursday.
New Jersey in 2019 relaxed the statute of limitations in sex abuse cases, allowing for new lawsuits in old cases of child sex abuse and sex abuse of adults. The two-year window for such lawsuits to be filed expires Nov. 30.
Anderson has filed other civil sex abuse lawsuits naming McCarrick. In July, he filed a civil lawsuit in a New Jersey court accusing McCarrick of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in 1986.
In July 2020, Anderson filed a lawsuit alleging that McCarrick had sexually abused a boy and aided his abuse by several other priests in the early 1980s, characterizing McCarrick as leading a “sex ring.”
Anderson has sued many Catholic dioceses and religious orders over the years. While some say he has been an effective advocate for sex abuse victims, critics say he has sensationalized and embellished claims in order to attract media attention to litigation, and that he is a self-promoter.
According to the lawsuit naming McCarrick, the plaintiff’s family resided in the Archdiocese of New York and had contact with McCarrick while he was a representative of the archdiocese. McCarrick was a priest secretary to Cardinal Terrence Cooke of New York beginning in 1971, and served as auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese from 1977 until 1981, when he was made bishop of Metuchen.
McCarrick later served as Archbishop of the Archdioceses of Newark and Washington, and played an influential role in the global Catholic Church. He helped craft the U.S. Church’s response to revelations of widespread clergy sex abuse in 2002. He also made numerous international trips for peacebuilding and ecumenical causes, and was known as an effective fundraiser.
In June 2018, the Archdiocese of New York revealed that a decades-old allegation of sex abuse against McCarrick was “credible.” News reports subsequently detailed more allegations of McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct with children and seminarians. According to a July 2018 New York Times report, Metuchen was one of the dioceses to have reached a settlement with a former priest, regarding allegations of abuse against McCarrick committed while the priest was a seminarian.
McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018, and was laicized in February 2019. He is the first U.S. Catholic cardinal to be criminally charged with sex abuse.
The Vatican in November 2020 released a report of more than 450 pages on the “institutional knowledge and decision-making” regarding McCarrick and his clerical career.
Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2021 / 15:02 pm (CNA).
The Archbishop of Washington on Wednesday said he was “embarrassed” at the charges of sex abuse recently filed against his predecessor, and emphasized that the Church’s primary concern in such cases should be caring for victims.
Addressing a National Press Club luncheon on Wednesday, Cardinal Wilton Gregory answered questions on a wide range of issues including the clergy sex abuse crisis, COVID-19 vaccines, and becoming the first African-American cardinal in the United States.
The former archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, last week pleaded not guilty in a Massachusetts court to criminal charges of sex assault against a 16 year-old male; the acts allegedly took place in the 1970s while McCarrick was a priest.
McCarrick, a former cardinal who retired as Washington archbishop in 2006, was laicized in 2019 following a Vatican investigation that found him guilty of “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults” and solicitation in the confessional.
“I’m embarrassed,” Gregory said of his predecessor’s alleged acts. “I’m embarrassed not with the discovery – although that’s certainly a part of my embarrassment. But I’m embarrassed because it’s absolutely contrary to everything that I as a priest – my brother priests and bishops – should be pursuing, in terms of serving our people.”
“My first thought was about the people that he [McCarrick] had hurt,” Gregory said of seeing images of the 91-year-old McCarrick appearing at his Sept. 3 arraignment in Massachusetts.
From the beginning of the clerical sex abuse crisis, he said, the Church has been focused on the wrong questions – rather than on the victims.
“We’re trying to make sure that the proper attention is put in the proper place. The people who should get our sorrow and our concern and our compassion are those that were hurt,” Gregory insisted.
Gregory led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2001 to 2004, a tenure which included the 2002 revelations of widespread clergy sex abuse. The conference in the fall of 2002 drafted its response, the Dallas Charter, which established norms for dealing with alleged abuse by priests and deacons. McCarrick, then the archbishop of Washington, had a role in drafting the charter.
“We also took this position: that no one with a credible [abuse] allegation should ever be in public ministry,” Gregory said on Wednesday.
He added that bishops can only act on clergy abuse accusations that are credible, and that they have knowledge of.
“I can only act on that which I know,” he said.
Back in January, Cardinal Gregory delivered an invocation at a national memorial service for COVID-19 victims, held on the eve of President Biden’s inauguration.
Regarding Catholics who have “religious” concerns about taking COVID-19 vaccines, Gregory on Wednesday pointed to Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI having both received a vaccine.
“It’s difficult to say that ‘I have a religious concern’ when the last two pontiffs have already been vaccinated, and where Pope Francis has so clearly, and may I say with great insistence, urged Catholics to take the vaccine,” Gregory said.
“It doesn’t diminish their concern, but it certainly puts their concern on a pretty shaky platform.”
Some Catholics have voiced objections to receiving the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States. Two of the vaccines, produced by Pfizer and Moderna, have been tested with cell lines derived from abortions committed decades ago. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was not only tested on the controversial cell lines, but was also produced using the cell lines.
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in December 2020 issued a note stating that Catholics may receive a COVID-19 vaccine with a connection to the cell lines, if no ethical option is available, due to the gravity of the pandemic.
For Catholics objecting out of “conscience,” they should take other precautions to prevent transmission of the virus, the Vatican stated.
On the topic of racial reconciliation, Gregory on Wednesday was asked by moderator Lisa Matthews, president of the National Press Club, what role the Church could play to bring Black Americans back to the faith.
Catholics “have a responsibility because of our faith to be on the forefront of the justice movement,” Gregory said. “It’s not something that should be foreign to any of us.”
He noted a generational decline in religious practice that is not unique to Catholicism.
“We have a problem – and it’s not just a Catholic problem,” he said, “of passing on the faith to the next generation.” For too many Catholics, he said, Catholicism “is a description rather than a practice or lived reality.”
Gregory also answered questions on immigration, labor, abortion, the death penalty, and the ordination of women.
He said that President Biden was “not demonstrating Catholic teaching” on when life begins, in response to Biden’s claim last week that life does not begin at conception. Gregory also called the death penalty “flawed,” before the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the execution of a Texas inmate.
Asked about the Church’s discipline on priestly celibacy and its connection to the clerical sex abuse crisis, Gregory said that celibacy is not the central problem at hand. Married priests, as well as married rabbis and ministers of other denominations have also abused children, he noted.
“The Catholic Church – we are the 800-pound gorilla. But we’ve got some other small relatives that have also demonstrated that same type of incredibly sick personality, behavior,” he said.
Reflecting on becoming the first Black cardinal in the United States in November 2020, Gregory pointed to his Chicago roots.
“Having been raised in an urban environment, like many African-American Catholics, the schools were a primary vehicle for entering the Catholic Church. And so it is with me,” Gregory said.
“When I knelt in front of Pope Francis to receive the biretta, the ring, and the sign, titular church – a lot of that heritage was running through my head at that time,” he recalled.
“We’ve had Italian cardinals, Polish cardinals, German cardinals, Irish cardinals. Now we have a Black cardinal. What is that going to do to the heart of the Church? What benefit will that bring to our Church? I’m still trying to figure that out.”
Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick outside the Dedham District Court for his arraignment, on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. / Joe Bukuras/CNA
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