A lawsuit alleges that former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick abused a teenage boy at the 1990s when he was leader of the archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey
Former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick abused a teenage boy at the 1990s when he was leader of the Archdiocese of Newark, according to a lawsuit filed under a recently enacted New Jersey law which provides accusers more time to make legal claims.
Another suit filed by two of six sisters alleges a now-deceased priest who had formerly worked for the archdiocese mistreated them and their siblings for almost 10 years later he had been transferred to Pennsylvania.
“This is a momentous day for our family because we can finally move forward in our search for justice,” among the sisters, Patty Fortney-Julius, said in a news conference Monday.
A law which was passed by New Jersey in the spring and went into effect Sunday allows child sex abuse victims to sue until they flip 55, or over seven years of the first understanding the abuse caused them injury. The former limit was two decades.
Applicants that were previously barred from suing because they did not act during the allotted period of time finally have a two-year window to file claims.
Both suits announced Monday seek unspecified punitive damages.
Fortney-Julius and her sisters allege the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark understood that Augustine Giella had abused kids well before their abuse started in the first 1980s, following his move to the Harrisburg diocese.
Her sister, Lara Fortney-McKeever, remembered through tears Monday how Giella came to her fifth grade classroom seeking volunteers for tasks around the rectory.
“I quickly raised my hand,” she explained. “That is the day I have regretted for over three decades, and it will haunt me for the rest of my life. I introduced this monster to my entire family, and it shattered us.”
In an emailed statement, the Newark archdiocese said it “will continue to cooperate and work with victims, their legal representatives and law enforcement authorities in an ongoing effort to resolve allegations made and bring closure to victims.”
The Diocese of Harrisburg said in an emailed statement that it had not received the criticism yet and deferred comment.
“The Fortney family, as well as all survivors of child abuse, have access to professional therapy and counseling services, at no cost to them, through the Diocese,” the statement said. “The Diocese of Harrisburg will continue to do all we can to support survivors of child sexual abuse and to ensure all youth in our care are safe.”
The sisters’ accounts were one of hundreds in last year’s evaluation on clergy sexual abuse conducted by a Pennsylvania grand jury that provided impetus for New Jersey legislators to act this year.
Since 2018, 15 states and the District of Columbia have revised their legislation to extend or suspend statute of limitations on child sex abuse claims, and New Jersey is one of many states to make so-called lookback windows for suits. The Fortney sisters sued in New Jersey since Pennsylvania lawmakers passed legislation with no lookback provision in November.
McCarrick, who served as archbishop of Washington, D.C., and was among those highest-ranking, most visible Catholic Church officials in the USA, was defrocked in February at age 89 following a church investigation determined he sexually abused minors, in addition to adult seminarians.
In a lawsuit filed Monday, John Bellocchio alleges McCarrick sexually assaulted him when he was 14 and McCarrick was seeing Bellocchio’s parish in Hackensack, New Jersey. Bellocchio’s lawyer, Jeff Anderson, said his client’s lawsuit is the first to name McCarrick as a suspect.
Additionally, it names the Newark archdiocese as a defendant, but not Vatican officials. It does, however, allege Vatican officials know McCarrick’s behavior yet continued to encourage him to higher positions.
“He never would have been able to do the things he did and rise up the ranks the way he did without their complicity or consent, implied or otherwise,” Bellocchio, today 37, said in a news conference.
Anderson stated that McCarrick is residing at a friary in Kansas but that he will seek to take a statement from him “as soon as possible, given his age.”
The Associated Press was unable to immediately find a contact for McCarrick or a representative who may comment on his behalf.
The AP doesn’t name individuals alleging sexual abuse unless they provide their approval. The plaintiffs in these suits have come forward publicly, and the sisters declared this season in the New Jersey Statehouse.
This story has been corrected to show that the amount of states to modify their legislation is 15, not about two dozen, and also to demonstrate that Pennsylvania passed its own legislation in November, not December.