Lawsuits bring additional sexual battery allegations against Theodore McCarrick

Cardinal McCarrick Credit US Institute of Peace CC BY NC 20 CNA Theodore McCarrick. | US Institute of Peace (CC BY NC 2.0)

Theodore McCarrick, a disgraced former cardinal, is facing criminal charges of sexual abuse of a minor, with his first court date scheduled for Friday. On Monday, a California-based law firm filed two additional lawsuits against McCarrick.

The first of the new lawsuits, brought by an anonymous former employee of the Archdiocese of Newark, alleges that McCarrick “engaged in unpermitted sexual contact” with the employee at Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in 1991. 

The second lawsuit was brought by Fr. Lauro Sedlmayer, who alleges that McCarrick “engaged in unpermitted sexual contact” with him, also in 1991. 

Fr. Sedlmayer, an immigrant from Brazil, alleges that he was invited repeatedly to stay at McCarrick’s beach house, and that he accepted the offer in the summer of 1991. At the beach house, Fr. Sedlmayer alleges, McCarrick sexually assaulted him on at least three occasions. McCarrick was Archbishop of Newark at the time. 

Fr. Sedlmayer filed a lawsuit in 2011 alleging that he told Metuchen’s bishop at the time, Edward Hughes, about McCarrick’s misconduct, and that Bishop Hughes allegedly did not act on the allegations and told Fr. Sedlmayer to “forgive him.” A Metuchen spokeswoman told the Washington Post that the diocese reviewed its files and has no record of a complaint from Fr. Sedlmayer to Bishop Hughes.

Around 2009, Fr. Sedlmayer was himself accused of inappropriate conduct of both a sexual and financial nature, which he denies. He retired in 2018. 

Among other charges, both lawsuits accuse McCarrick of sexual battery and the Newark archdiocese of gross negligence. Fr. Sedlmayer’s lawsuit also accuses McCarrick of fraud and misrepresentation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

McCarrick, 91, is currently charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, according to court documents filed July 28 in District Court in Dedham, Mass.

McCarrick is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 3 for his arraignment to answer the charges. Each of the three criminal charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Long a powerful and high-profile Catholic leader in the United States with an impressive international resume, McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state by Pope Francis in 2019, after the Vatican conducted an expedited canonical investigation and found McCarrick 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 current charges of abuse of a minor stem from a series of sexual assaults alleged to have taken place on June 8, 1974 during the wedding reception of the alleged victim's brother. McCarrick allegedly sexually assaulted a sixteen-year-old boy outside near some bushes on a college campus and in a small coat room. 

McCarrick was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of New York in 1958, and became auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese in 1977. He became in 1981 Bishop of Metuchen, then Archbishop of Newark in 1986, and in 2001 Archbishop of Washington, whence he retired in 2006.

He became a cardinal in 2001, but resigned from the College of Cardinals after it emerged in June 2018 that he had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting a minor. Allegations of serial sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests soon followed, and McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state in February 2019.

McCarrick’s public disgrace in 2018 and dismissal from the clerical state a year later shocked Catholics in the United States and around the world, and triggered an international crisis of credibility for the Church’s hierarchy, leading to Pope Francis calling a meeting of the world’s bishops in 2019 to address problems of sexual abuse and accountability in the Church.

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