Ex-Cardinal McCarrick may avoid trial. NJ accusers say they feel ‘re-victimized’

The Record [Woodland Park NJ]

June 29, 2023

By Deena Yellin

[Includes a powerful three-minute video by Josh Morgan, in which James Grein talks about his journey.]

Former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is not competent to stand trial on charges accusing him of sexually assaulting a New Jersey teen decades ago, an expert for the prosecution said, raising doubts about the future of a series of criminal and civil cases against the 92-year-old.

Prosecutors in Massachusetts disclosed the findings to a judge, who will ultimately rule on the once-powerful American prelate’s ability to face charges that he abused the boy at a wedding reception at Wellesley College in 1974.

McCarrick, who was the archbishop of Newark from 1986 to 2000 and the bishop of Metuchen earlier in the 1980s, has maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty in 2021 to the Massachusetts charges. He was also charged in April with sexually assaulting an 18-year-old man in Wisconsin more than 45 years ago.

The news drew outrage from advocates for clergy abuse victims in New Jersey, where McCarrick faces several lawsuits, as well as from James Grein, the Bergen County native whose accusations led to the criminal case in Massachusetts.

“He groomed me but I escaped by the Grace of God,” Grein said in an email to NorthJersey.com Friday. “I lived in his grasp for years. I know how he operates. Still to this day, people are not listening.”

“He may escape punishment from man but his maker will have the final judgment.”

McCarrick defrocked in 2019

Grein, 64 and now living in Virginia revealed himself as the accuser in the Massachusetts case earlier this year. A Tenafly native, he has said McCarrick abused him for a period of nearly 20 years, beginning when he was 11 and including the incident at Wellesley College when he was 16. He and McCarrick, a close family friend, were at the school for his brother’s wedding reception, Grein said.

McCarrick is the only Catholic cardinal in the United States to ever face child sex abuse charges. He was removed from ministry in 2018 when the church deemed an allegation of child sex abuse against him to be credible. He was defrocked a year later amid accusations that he abused children and adult seminary students.

In February, McCarrick’s attorneys asked the court to dismiss the case, saying a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine had examined him and concluded that he has dementia, likely Alzheimer’s disease.

At that time, lawyers said McCarrick had a “limited understanding” of the criminal proceedings against him, but that “his progressive and irreparable cognitive deficits render him unable to meaningfully consult with counsel or to effectively assist in his own defense.”

Prosecutors later hired their own expert to assess McCarrick, who filed their own report on the man’s competency, which has not been made public. The judge set a hearing on the matter for Aug. 30.

Barry Coburn, an attorney for McCarrick, declined to comment.

Lawsuits will go forward

Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney representing Grein as well as other clergy abuse survivors, said in a written statement that his client was “obviously discouraged” by the prosecution expert’s findings. He said his client remains determined to continue with lawsuits he has filed against McCarrick in other states.

“By proceeding with the civil lawsuits my client is empowering himself, other clergy sexual abuse victims and making the world a safer place for children,” Garabedian said. “I believe that a finding of former Cardinal McCarrick being found incompetent in the criminal case will not prevent the civil litigation from proceeding.”

“I have previously taken a more than six-hour deposition of former Cardinal McCarrick under oath in the NJ civil case. My client, a brave clergy sexual abuse victim, will not be deterred.”

At least fourteen people have accused the former cardinal of sexually abusing them as children. At least half have sued him in New York and New Jersey, according to the website BishopAccountability.com, which tracks such cases.

Robert Hoatson of West Orange, president of Road to Recovery, which aids clergy abuse survivors, said, “there is no question that McCarrick is feeble, but the longer justice is dragged out on his behalf, the longer his victims get older, more frustrated, and more re-victimized.”

In February, a Northjersey.com reporter reached McCarrick, who now lives in Dittmer, Missouri, on his private cellphone.

Ex-cardinal defends himself

The ex-prelate said he was feeling well “considering that I am 92 years old. It’s not like I’m 40 or 50 anymore.” Asked about Grein he said he remembered him.

But of the allegations, he said, “The things he said about me are not true,” and then he quickly added, “If you want more information about it, you can talk to my lawyers.”

McCarrick was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14. He was not exempt from facing charges because the clock stopped on the statute of limitations when he left Massachusetts.

Ordained as a priest in New York City in 1958, McCarrick was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after a Vatican investigation determined he sexually molested adults as well as children. An internal Vatican investigation found that bishops, cardinals and popes downplayed or dismissed reports of sexual misconduct over many years.

The case created a credibility crisis for the church since the Vatican had reports from authoritative cardinals dating to 1999 that McCarrick’s behavior was problematic, yet he became an influential cardinal, kingmaker and emissary of the Holy See’s “soft diplomacy.”

This article contains material from the Associated Press.

Deena Yellin covers religion for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to her work covering how the spiritual intersects with our daily lives, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: yellin@northjersey.com

Twitter: @deenayellin