Four of McCarrick’s abuse victims sue the Vatican for negligence

In this March 4, 2015, file photo, then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick speaks during a memorial service in South Bend, Ind. Four alleged victims of the former Cardinal have filed a $75 million lawsuit against the Vatican that claims it should be held liable for allowing the disgraced cleric to serve in multiple positions in New York and New Jersey when it knew of numerous allegations of sexual abuse against him. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Four accusers of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick have filed a lawsuit against the Vatican, arguing it should be held liable for allowing the now-disgraced cleric to serve in multiple positions in New York and New Jersey when it knew of numerous allegations of sexual abuse against him.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, where McCarrick served as archbishop from the mid-1980s until 2000. Prior to that, he served as bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, also in New Jersey, and as a priest in the archdiocese of New York.

He was appointed archbishop of Washington, D.C., in 2000 by Pope John Paul II and became one of the highest-ranking, most visible Roman Catholic officials in the United States and a skilled fundraiser. McCarrick was defrocked in 2019 after an investigation substantiated allegations of sexual abuse against him.

Three of the plaintiffs were parishioners who allege McCarrick abused them as youths in the 1980s. The fourth is a priest who alleges McCarrick abused him at a beach house in New Jersey in the 1990s and that a fellow priest told him to forget about what happened “for the good of the church.”

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

An internal Vatican report released last week found that bishops, cardinals and popes downplayed or dismissed multiple reports of sexual misconduct by the now-90-year-old McCarrick, who lives as a layman in a residence for priests.

The plaintiffs seek unspecified monetary damages, as well as an injunction to force the Vatican to release the names of more than 3,000 clerics who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse, and all documents relating to those claims.

Popes from John Paul II to Benedict to Francis “chose to conceal and condone this conduct,” Jeff Anderson, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said Thursday.

The lawsuit characterizes the Holy See, the government of the Catholic Church located in Vatican City, as a “vast enterprise” that exerted total control over McCarrick, its employee, and had the sole authority to remove him but refused to do so because of its policy of keeping sexual abuse allegations secret.

"If Defendant Holy See had not engaged in its vast enterprise of soliciting funds, recruiting members, and other commercial activities, and had not deceived Plaintiffs while undertaking this commercial activity, Plaintiffs would not have been abused,“ the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit's claims include violations of international human rights laws, consumer fraud, breach of contract, negligence and infliction of emotional distress.

An email message was left after hours Thursday with a spokesperson for the Vatican in Rome.

The Holy See has successfully defended previous lawsuits by Anderson and others by arguing that it is immune as a foreign sovereign and its priests aren't Vatican employees. Anderson said Thursday that the immunity defense has been weakened over the years.

"It’s our belief that there’s a clear legal path that must be taken,” he said.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.]

The latest from america

Join America Media as we prepare for the coming of our Lord with special daily Advent reflections on The Word podcast.
America StaffNovember 27, 2020
St. Francis’ poverty was not cold and brutal but actually, in a way, worldly. It was a poverty that anyone today searching for what is real and authentic might relate to.
Jason M. BaxterNovember 27, 2020
The image displays five photos of the five members of the prayer service's organizing committee: Moira Egan, a white woman in her 50s with dark hair (top left); Kathleen Friel, a white woman with short hair wearing glasses (top middle); Ricardo da Silva, S.J., a white man who is bald with a brown beard, wearing glasses (top right); Father John Mulreany, S.J., wearing clerical carb that is black, and glasses (bottom left); Allison Connelly, white woman, light brown hair and glasses (bottom right)
An New York City parish organized a fully accessible prayer service for people with disabilities, who even in the church are often forgotten on the margins.
Erika RasmussenNovember 27, 2020
Roberto S. Goizueta’s 'Caminemos con Jesús' has become incarnate in singer-songwriter-theologian Tony Alonso’s new songbook.
Cecilia González-AndrieuNovember 27, 2020