Former Cardinal McCarrick, Metuchen Diocese ex-clergymen face more sex abuse suits

METUCHEN (NJ) [Woodland Park NJ]

September 16, 2021

By Suzanne Russell,

Three more lawsuits were filed Thursday against the Diocese of Metuchen alleging sexual abuse against adults and children by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Rev. John Butler and Brother Regis Moccia.

And because Butler and Moccia, who have both died, were not listed on Diocese of Metuchen’s list of sexually abusive clergy, one of the attorneys filing the lawsuits pleaded with Bishop James F. Checchio to release the names of all clergy offenders, including those whose names have never been made public.

“We urge you, release those names of those secret settlements of those offenders that you have now made. The public needs to know, and the survivors need to know who are still suffering in silence sometimes believing they are the only ones, deserve to know while they have time to act. Do it today,” said attorney Jeffrey R. Anderson.

Anderson said he believes there are more than 15 names that should be added to the list.

Anthony P. Kearns III, the former Hunterdon County prosecutor who now serves as chancellor for the Diocese of Metuchen, said in a statement that the diocese is “called and committed to responding in the present with transparency and integrity to bring hope and healing to all who have suffered the effects of abuse.”

“We will continue to take steps forward to ensure the shameful actions of the past cannot be repeated in the future,” Kearns continued in the statement.

While the diocese will not comment on pending litigation, Kearns stated, “we hold in prayer all survivors of abuse, among them those survivors who have courageously come forward to bring their past abuse to light.”

In one of the lawsuits, McCarrick is accused of sexually abusing an New York adult from around 1982 to 1985, while McCarrick was bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen. McCarrick allegedly engaged in unpermitted sexual contact when the plaintiff was 19 to 22 years old.  

During a video news conference, Anderson referred to McCarrick as “predator of children and vulnerable adults for decades” and said it was the sixth civil suit brought against McCarrick for alleged sexual abuse from the 1970s to 1990s. 

Anderson said McCarrick first had contact with the plaintiff as a priest in New York. He built trust and groomed the child through his parents and family, and then brought him to Metuchen and sexually assaulted him while he was a young adult.

The lawsuit, filed under the New Jersey Victims Rights Bill that allows victims to pursue lawsuits in Superior Court, was filed against both McCarrick and the Diocese of Metuchen.

The lawsuit also accuses the diocese of gross negligence for failing to protect the plaintiff from injury, gross negligence in training and supervision for failing to ensure McCarrick did not commit sexual assaults and training and educating employees on policies and procedures to prevent and address inappropriate behavior.

Anderson said the lawsuit allows this plaintiff “to take his power, to share that shameful secret, to do what he needs to do to get help and stand up for himself.”

Anderson said this is the third case his firm has brought in New Jersey against McCarrick alleging he used his power as bishop, archbishop and cardinal to exploit or abuse adults.

McCarrick currently is living at a treatment center for priests in Missouri. He appeared in public for the first time since 2018 for a Sept. 3 arraignment in a suburban Boston courtroom on three counts of criminal child sex abuse in a case dating to the 1970s. McCarrick pleaded not guilty.

It was the first time an American cardinal has faced a criminal charge of abuse. 

Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick in 2019 after a Vatican investigation determined he sexually abused minors, as well as adults.

A two-year internal investigation found that three decades of bishops, cardinals and popes downplayed or dismissed reports of sexual misconduct. Correspondence showed they repeatedly rejected the information as rumor and excused it as an “imprudence.”

The findings released pinned much of the blame on Pope John Paul II, who appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington, D.C., despite having commissioned an inquiry that confirmed McCarrick slept with seminarians.

In a second lawsuit, Butler, who served at St. John Vianney Church in the Colonia section of Woodbridge, allegedly engaged in sexual contact with a child from the ages of 9 to 12 from 1995 to 1998.

Anderson said Butler had been serving in the diocese for more than 20 years. He said Butler had moved around before landing in the Diocese of Metuchen. He had served in both Richmond, Virginia, and Rockville Center, New York. 

“The Diocese of Metuchen removed Butler from the ministry in 2002, but he is still not on their list of credibly accused priests who have offended minors,” said Anderson, adding that list only contains 10 names.

The third lawsuit lists Moccia as engaging in sexual contact with a student at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen from 1981 to 1982 when the plaintiff was 14 to 15 years old.

In a separate lawsuit last year Moccia, a member of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, was accused of sexually abusing a 13- to 14-year-old from approximately 1994 to 1995 while the plaintiff was a student at the high school. 

Anderson said the 2020 lawsuit inspired this plaintiff to come forward. 

Anderson said Moccia is not on the list of clergy sexual offenders released by the Diocese of Metuchen.

In both the Butler and Moccia lawsuits, the diocese is accused of negligence in protecting the plaintiffs from injury and harm, negligent training and supervision and negligent retention of the abusive clergy.

Butler died in 2016 and Moccia died in 2002, said Anderson, who added that their deaths does not prevent plaintiffs from bringing claims against the diocese. 

“No child asks to be sexually abused. No teenager asks to be sexually abused and because of an amazing law in New Jersey no adult who was sexually exploited by an authority figure needs to stay silent anymore,” said Joelle Casteix, a California woman who was sexually abused by her Catholic high school choir director. “In New Jersey, no matter who hurt you and no matter how old you were, you have the right to stop the cycle of abuse and to ensure that what happened to you never happens to another child.”

She urged victims of abuse to come forward and say what happened and that it was not their fault.

All claims in New Jersey must be filed by Nov. 30.

In his statement, Kearns encouraged anyone who has been harmed in any way, by any clergy in the church, to immediately notify authorities by calling 877 NJ ABUSE and reach out to the diocese’s Director of Child and Youth Protection at 908-930-4558.

Contributing: The Associated Press


Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for covering crime, courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.