Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
DENVER — A lawsuit filed Tuesday charges that former cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually abused a boy and aided his abuse by several other priests, and claims that a principal at a Christian Brothers high school helped procure the victim for McCarrick and the other clergy abusers in the early 1980s.

The plaintiff’s controversial lawyer, Jeff Anderson characterized McCarrick as leading a “sex ring.” He claimed papal power is to blame, including Pope Francis, and cites unproven claims by the controversial Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano about the Holy See’s response to McCarrick.

Anderson, a personal injury attorney, has filed abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church for decades. While some say he has been an advocate for victims, critics say he has sensationalized and embellished claims in order to attract media attention to litigation, and that he is a self-promoter.

Speaking in a Wednesday press conference, Anderson said the plaintiff is “very brave” and “a survivor of sexual predation by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and other clerics.”

McCarrick’s civil attorney, Barry Coburn, declined to comment.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday also names as defendants the Newark archdiocese, the Metuchen diocese, several Catholic parishes, and the Catholic high school as defendants. Four other priests and a religious member of the Christian Brothers allegedly abused the victim, according to the lawsuit.

The Newark archdiocese told CNA it would be “inappropriate” to comment on matters in litigation.

“The Archdiocese of Newark remains fully committed to transparency and to our long-standing programs to protect the faithful and will continue to work with victims, their legal representatives and law enforcement authorities in an ongoing effort to resolve allegations and bring closure to victims,” the archdiocese said.

Anthony Kearns, spokesperson and chancellor of the Metuchen diocese, told CNA July 22 the diocese had not yet received the complaint, but said “our prayers are with all survivors of abuse, today and always, and we stand with them in their journey toward healing and hope.”

“With God’s grace, all survivors of abuse, particularly those wounded by members of the Church, will continue to heal and move forward,” Kearns said. “Our diocese renews our commitment to prevent these types of abuse from ever happening again.”

He encouraged “anyone who has been harmed in any way, by any clergy in the Church” to contact state authorities and the diocese.

The plaintiff uses the pseudonym John Doe 14.

The lawsuit alleges that McCarrick’s sexual abuse of the plaintiff began in about 1982 and continued until about 1983. Doe was 14 to 16 years old at the time of the abuses. Doe’s lawsuit claims he was first abused by a parish priest, then later groomed and sexually abused by the principal of a Christian Brothers school. The principal then allegedly arranged for him to be abused by McCarrick.

McCarrick was named the first Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey in 1981, after he served as an auxiliary Bishop in New York City.

The lawsuit said Doe and other victims were taken on weekend overnight trips to a beach house in Sea Girt, N.J.

“McCarrick assigned sleeping arrangements, choosing his victims from the boys, seminarians and clerics present at the beach house,” the lawsuit said. “On these occasions, minor boys were assigned to different rooms and paired with adult clerics.”

The plaintiff was from a devout Catholic family. He attended Shrine of Divine Mercy St. Francis Xavier Parish in Newark and Essex Catholic Boys’ High School. He participated in youth and church activities and developed “great admiration, trust, reverence and respect” for the Catholic Church and the defendants, the lawsuit said.

Father Anthony Nardino of St. Francis Xavier Church allegedly engaged in sexual contact with the plaintiff in 1978, when he was 11, the lawsuit said. Anderson said this set Doe up for grooming and sexual abuse by high school principal, Brother Andrew Hewitt of the Christian Brothers, who died in 2002.

Anderson characterized Hewitt as a “procurer” for McCarrick and noted that the Christian Brothers have listed the former principal as credibly accused of abuse in another case. He believes Hewitt procured other boys for McCarrick.

According to the victim, Hewitt introduced him to McCarrick. Hewitt said McCarrick was someone who could help Doe pay school tuition. Doe then went on overnight and weekend trips to the beach house, where he was sexually abused by McCarrick and other priests named in the lawsuit.

Father Gerald Ruane, Father Michael Walters, and Fr. John Laferrera allegedly abused Doe in the same time period. All three priests were under the Archdiocese of Newark and have been listed by the archdiocese as credibly accused of abuse. Walters and Laferrera have both been removed from ministry.

Anderson characterized McCarrick as “the boss” and these priests as “the crew.” Ruwane, who is deceased, became “both an enabler and a participant in McCarrick’s predation of this kid,” according to Anderson. Walters allegedly engaged in criminal sexual conduct with the boy, as did Laferrera.

The lawsuit said McCarrick sexually assaulted at least seven minor boys. The diocese, archdiocese, and their entities knew, or should have known, that McCarrick and the other clergy named were dangers to children, it charged. They failed to report known or suspected abuse of children. They knew, or should have known, that children in their activities were at risk of sex abuse.

New Jersey Catholic parishes named in the lawsuit are St. Francis Xavier / Shrine of Divine Mercy Parish in Newark; Holy Trinity Parish in Hackensack; Our Lady of the Lake in Verona; St. Cassian’s Parish in Upper Montclair; and Immaculate Conception in Newark.

An ABC Entity, “the fictitious name” of “an entity believed to have employed McCarrick” as well as the accused priests and the religious brother, is also named in the suit.

It is unclear what this entity is. However, Anderson has previously attempted to file a lawsuit against the Holy See.

According to the timeline proposed by Anderson, in 1993 Fr. Boniface Ramsey, O.P., reported McCarrick’s conduct with seminarians to then-Archbishop of Louisville Thomas Kelly, OP. Ramsey in 2000 sent a letter to the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, voicing his concerns about McCarrick and his behavior towards seminarians.

In 1993, Bishop Thomas Hughes, then-Bishop of Metuchen learned that McCarrick had sexually exploited a young seminarian, the suit alleged, also claiming that in 1995 a priest reported to Hughes that McCarrick inappropriately touched him.

The lawsuit cites Vigano’s claim that Pope Benedict XVI had imposed sanctions upon McCarrick because of his misconduct with seminarians and priests. These sanctions were allegedly not enforced.

The lawsuit cited a recent independent review at the Archdiocese of Newark’s Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University, which found that McCarrick “created a culture of fear and intimidation that supported his personal objectives.” He used his position as archbishop “to sexually harass seminarians.”

Anderson claimed that the issue goes beyond McCarrick’s “fear and intimidation.” With little explanation, he accused Pope John Paul II and his successors Benedict XVI and Francis of enabling McCarrick’s rise.

John Paul II had appointed McCarrick to the Metuchen diocese, and later to both the Newark and Washington archdioceses. He named him a cardinal in 2001. Benedict XVI appears to have imposed secret restrictions on McCarrick, which McCarrick did not follow.

“It’s papal permission to engage in unbridled abuse of power, time and time again… that is a painful truth that is now time for those who permitted it to reckon,” Anderson said.

The lawsuit also cites Vigano’s claim that he told Pope Francis about McCarrick’s behavior. Vigano’s 2018 letter claimed the Holy See had been informed in 2000 of McCarrick’s “gravely immoral behavior with seminarians and priests.”

The lawsuit claims that Pope Francis “remained complicit in the coverup of McCarrick” and “did not take action” until July 2018.

Mike Finnegan, an attorney working with Anderson, also cited Vigano’s claims at the July 22 press conference.

“It’s time to day for the top officials, the bishops and the pope to come clean about what all of them knew about Cardinal McCarrick,” Finnegan said. He contended that Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark and Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen also need to “come clean.”