Associated Press [New York NY]
September 16, 2021
By David Porter
Three sex abuse lawsuits filed against a New Jersey diocese and announced Thursday include claims that defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick abused a young man in the 1980s.
The lawsuit accuses McCarrick of sexual battery against the man, who was in his late teens and early 20s when McCarrick was Bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, in central New Jersey. McCarrick went on to become archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark in the mid-1980s and then Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, D.C., in 2001. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
McCarrick was defrocked in 2019 after a Vatican investigation determined he sexually abused minors, as well as adults. He faces other lawsuits in New Jersey, including one that alleged he sexually abused a teenage boy at a beach house in the 1980s.
In a separate case in Massachusetts, the now-91-year-old McCarrick recently became the only U.S. Catholic cardinal ever to be charged with child sex crimes, and he pleaded not guilty in a court appearance in early September.
The claims announced Thursday were filed as the clock winds down on a two-year window for people to file sex abuse lawsuits regardless of how far back the alleged abuse occurred. New Jersey opened the window in December 2019, in the wake of a landmark grand jury report in neighboring Pennsylvania that detailed abuse by hundreds of clerics against more than a thousand child victims.
An attorney representing McCarrick, who now lives in Missouri, declined comment on the lawsuit Thursday.
Through a spokesperson, the Metuchen diocese said in an email Thursday that it has taken aggressive steps to protect children, including requiring background checks for all clergy, employees and volunteers; training for all who work or volunteer with children; enforcing a zero-tolerance policy, and relying on a review board to determine the credibility of every allegation against clergy.
“We will continue to take steps forward to ensure the shameful actions of the past cannot be repeated in the future,” the diocese said.
The two other lawsuits announced Thursday name the Metuchen diocese and two other clerics, Father John Butler and Brother Regis Moccia. Both Butler and Moccia worked at high schools the lawsuits say were under the direct control of the diocese and are now deceased, according to Jeff Anderson, an attorney representing the plaintiffs.
Neither man’s name appears on a list of credibly accused clerics released in 2019 by the diocese. The Metuchen diocese’s spokesperson said Thursday that Butler’s name appears on a list released by the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, where he was ordained a priest. Moccia was not a priest of the Diocese of Metuchen, the spokesperson said, and the diocese would not have access to personnel records or outcomes of investigations that would have resulted from allegations against him.
The lawsuit against Butler alleges he abused a boy in the late 1990s while Butler was working at St. John Vianney School in Colonia, beginning when the boy was 9. The suit against Moccia, who worked at St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen, claims he abused the boy starting when he was 14, in the early 1980s.
This story has been corrected to show that both Butler and Moccia, not just Butler, don’t appear on a list of credibly accused clergy released by the Diocese of Metuchen.