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

Theodore McCarrick and Fr. Michael Barrett Screenshot of Jeff Anderson & Associates press conference./ Jeff Anderson & Associates

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.”

You can watch the full video of the press conference below:

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA in a statement on Wednesday, "The archdiocese takes all allegations of abuse seriously, and responds with compassion and respect. However, we cannot comment on specific lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act."

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 afternoon.

“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.”

Reached by CNA on Wednesday, McCarrick's lawyer Barry Coburn would not offer comment on 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.

You can read the full lawsuit below:

The defendants in the lawsuit are McCarrick, then a priest of the New York archdiocese and secretary to then-Cardinal Terence Cooke, and 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.

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

McCarrick, a priest of the archdiocese and secretary to Cardinal Cooke before his elevation to New York auxiliary bishop in 1977, had become friends with the plaintiff's family members who were "deeply embedded" with leadership in the archdiocese, Anderson said.

Anderson alleged on Wednesday that McCarrick took the victim on trips away from home while he "groomed" him. The plaintiff's abuse by McCarrick occurred in the victim's home, as well as in a limousine. The plaintiff is now in his 50s.

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.

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This story was updated on August 4 with quotes from Opus Dei, the New York archdiocese, and McCarrick's legal representation, and with new information.