Theodore McCarrick faces new civil sex abuse lawsuit

Cardinal McCarrick Theodore McCarrick/ U.S. Institute of Peace / CC BY NC 2.0

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick now faces a fifth civil sex abuse lawsuit in New Jersey, after he was criminally charged in a Massachusetts district court this week for sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

On Thursday, a lawsuit was filed in a New Jersey court accusing McCarrick of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in 1986, NorthJersey.com first reported. The civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of the plaintiff by Jeffrey Anderson, a prominent attorney who represents sex abuse victims.

McCarrick's attorney Barry Coburn told CNA in a statement on Saturday, "We will look forward to addressing this case in the courtroom."

The new lawsuit follows McCarrick’s first criminal charges, which were filed on Wednesday by Wellesley, Massachusetts police in the state’s Dedham District Court. That complaint included three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, alleged to have been committed against a 16-year-old male in 1974.

McCarrick, now 91, is scheduled to appear in the Massachusetts court for his arraignment, to formally answer the charges, on Sept. 3. He was the first U.S. cardinal to be criminally charged with sex abuse of a minor.

In 2018, he became the most notable Church figure at the center of sex abuse allegations. In June of that year, the Archdiocese of New York announced that an allegation of sexual abuse against McCarrick from nearly 50 years prior was found to be “credible and substantiated.” The New York Times later reported accusations of McCarrick’s having sexually abused two boys decades earlier, while he was a priest.

More reports then surfaced of McCarrick’s abuse, grooming, and harassment of seminarians from over the decades, and McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018. Pope Francis sentenced him to a life of prayer and penance that month following the public allegations.

The pope laicized McCarrick in February 2019 after the Vatican conducted an expedited investigation and 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.”

According to the lawsuit filed Thursday in New Jersey, McCarrick sexually abused a boy in 1986, while he was “an agent and representative of Defendant Archdiocese of Newark.”

McCarrick was installed as Archbishop of Newark on July 25, 1986. He had served in New Jersey as Bishop of Metuchen since 1981, and before that as auxiliary bishop of the neighboring New York archdiocese since 1977.

A summary of the criminal complaint against McCarrick this week in Massachusetts alleged that he abused the victim in several states – in New Jersey, New York, California, and Massachusetts.

In an allegation shared in the summary report – from which the criminal charges stem –  McCarrick sexually assaulted the then-16-year-old victim at his brother’s wedding reception at Wellesley College. Immediately following the alleged abuse, McCarrick instructed the victim to say prayers “so god can redeem you of your sins.”

The criminal sex abuse charges were the first to be filed against McCarrick. Although allegations of sexual abuse and harassment against him were made public in 2018, he had not yet been charged criminally due to the statutes of limitations in states where he was alleged to have committed abuse.

Some states, including New York and New Jersey, have since 2018 begun suspending the statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits in old cases of child sex abuse; stricter time limits still apply to criminal cases of sex abuse, however.

As McCarrick was not a Massachusetts resident, however, and left the state before the statute of limitations expired, the time limits for criminal charges of sex abuse to be filed did not apply in his case.

After the time window opened in New Jersey for new civil lawsuits in old cases of child sex abuse, two lawsuits naming McCarrick and New Jersey dioceses were promptly filed in state courts in December 2019. The two lawsuits alleged that McCarrick sexually assaulted two males while he served as bishop of Metuchen and archbishop of Newark; McCarrick allegedly committed some acts of abuse at cathedral rectories, according to the lawsuits.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuits was James Grein, who said he was abused by McCarrick, a family friend, beginning at age 11 while McCarrick was a priest in the New York archdiocese. The abuse allegedly continued while McCarrick bishop of Metuchen and archbishop of Newark. Grein was also the subject of a July 2018 New York Times story that published his decades-old abuse allegations against McCarrick.

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In a canonical deposition by the Archdiocese of New York in December of 2018, Grein reportedly said that McCarrick abused him during confession.

In another lawsuit filed against McCarrick in 2020, Jeffrey Anderson alleged that McCarrick sexually abused a boy and aided his abuse by several other priests and characterized McCarrick as leading a “sex ring.”

After he was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance in 2018, McCarrick resided at St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, Kansas, of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Conrad. In January 2020, he was reported to have moved to an undisclosed location on his own accord.

The criminal complaint filed this week listed his residence at an address matching that of the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri. The center is a treatment facility run by the Servants of the Paraclete, which, according to its website, provides "a safe and supportive environment for the rehabilitation and reconciliation of priests and religious brothers."

This article was updated on July 31 with a statement from McCarrick's attorney.

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