Anderson has filed abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church for decades. While some say he has been an advocate for victims, critics characterize him as a self-promoter who has sensationalized and embellished claims in order to attract media attention to litigation.
In statements about other lawsuits he has claimed papal power is to blame for abuse, and has blamed Pope Francis himself. He has cited unproven claims by the controversial Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano about the Holy See's response to McCarrick.
Anderson’s lawsuit on behalf of Reading also cites the Vatican’s 2020 report on its investigation into what church officials knew about McCarrick.
Reading, known as Doe 308 in the lawsuit, was ordained a priest on Nov. 22, 1986. He served as a priest for only seven years.
The lawsuit accuses McCarrick of committing “harmful and offensive bodily sexual contact” on Reading. The former priest has told his story elsewhere, including in a Sept. 12, 2018 Washington Post story.
Reading told the Washington Post that in 1986 he was invited to a barbeque and overnight stay for seminarians at McCarrick’s beach house in Sea Girt, N.J. According to Reading, McCarrick lingered in the bedroom when the twentysomething seminarian was changing into a swimsuit. McCarrick later approached the seminarian after the barbeque and put his hand down his swimsuit.
The seminarian was shocked by the incident and didn’t report it or tell family members until allegations against McCarrick became public in 2018.
He said that the incident affected him throughout the rest of his time as a priest.
“I feel like the priesthood was taken away from me,” he told the Washington Post. “And I loved what I did.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Father Edward J. Eilert engaged in “unpermitted sexual contact” with Reading in 1978. At the time, the plaintiff was a parishioner at St. John the Apostle Church in Linden, N.J., a city on the state border across from the New York City borough of Staten Island.
Eilert is on the Newark archdiocese’s February 2019 list of credibly accused clergy for “multiple” allegations. He is listed as permanently removed from ministry. The website of Anderson’s law firm lists him at a retirement home for priests as early as 2005.
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In 2002 Eilert was among three priests accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl in the 1980s. Though the Union County Prosecutor’s Office said the accusations were credible, charges were not allowed under the statute of limitations, NJ.com reported in 2013.
Anderson’s law firm has recently filed three separate actions against other priests who allegedly committed abuse, including one priest who is still active in ministry.
In September, McCarrick pleaded “not guilty” to several charges of sexual assault in Massachusetts regarding incidents which allegedly took place in the 1970s.
McCarrick was once a high-ranking and influential U.S. prelate with an impressive international resume. He resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018 following a past allegation of sex abuse against a teenager that the New York archdiocese deemed credible. In February 2019, Pope Francis laicized McCarrick after a 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 exposure of McCarrick prompted many questions about how he rose in the Church despite long-rumored claims of corruption. Various individuals came forward saying they had sought to report his misconduct.
In 2018, Cardinal Joseph Tobin told a journalist that shortly after his 2017 arrival as head of the Newark archdiocese, he had heard rumors about McCarrick’s sexual misconduct. He said he did not investigate those rumors because he found them unbelievable.