Four alleged victims of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick filed a lawsuit against the Vatican arguing that the Vatican should be responsible for allowing the now disgraced clergyman to serve in multiple positions in New York and New Jersey when numerous allegations of sexual abuse became known. against him.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, where McCarrick served as archbishop from the mid-1980s to 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, DC, in 2000 by Pope John Paul II and became one of the highest-ranking and most visible Roman Catholic officials in the United States and a qualified fundraiser. McCarrick was removed from the post in 2019 after an investigation corroborated allegations of sexual abuse against him.
Three of the plaintiffs were parishioners who allege that McCarrick abused them when they were young in the 1980s. The fourth is a priest who alleges that McCarrick abused him at a beach house in New Jersey in the 1990s and that a A fellow priest told him to forget what happened “for the good of the church.”
An internal Vatican report, released last week, found that bishops, cardinals and popes downplayed or dismissed multiple reports of sexual misconduct by McCarrick, who is now 90 and living as a lay person in a residence for priests.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified monetary damages, as well as a court order to force the Vatican to reveal the names of more than 3,000 clergymen who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse, and all documents related to those claims.
Popes from John Paul II to Benedict and Francis “chose to conceal and condone this conduct,” Jeff Anderson, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said Thursday.
The lawsuit characterizes the Holy See, the government of the Catholic Church located in Vatican City, as a “vast company” that exercised total control over McCarrick, its employee, and had the exclusive authority to remove him, but refused to do so because of their policy of keeping allegations of sexual abuse secret.
“If the defendant Holy See had not become involved in its vast enterprise of soliciting funds, recruiting members and other business activities, and had not misled the plaintiffs while conducting this business activity, the plaintiffs would not have been abused,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit’s claims include violations of international human rights laws, consumer fraud, breach of contract, negligence, and emotional distress.
An email message was left after hours Thursday with a Vatican spokesman in Rome.
The Holy See has successfully defended previous demands by Anderson and others arguing that it is immune as a foreign sovereign and that its priests are not Vatican employees. Anderson said Thursday that the defense of immunity has weakened over the years.
“We believe that there is a clear legal path that must be taken,” he said.