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A lawsuit filed Tuesday night accuses former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of taking his pick of boys to abuse sexually and assigning others to adult clerics at a New Jersey beach home that's been central to previous allegations against the former prelate.
The man who brought the suit said in court papers that he was abused in the early 1980s by McCarrick and three priests at the home, which is in Sea Girt. McCarrick previously was accused of bringing adult seminarians to the home and sexually harassing them during overnight stays. Those allegations and others involving children led to McCarrick being defrocked last year, when he became the highest-ranking American Catholic official to be punished over accusations of sex abuse.
The suit alleges that the plaintiff was abused by two other clerics as a child — including a former Essex Catholic High School principal who introduced him to McCarrick “under the guise that McCarrick would help Plaintiff pay his school tuition.”
Jeff Anderson, the plaintiff’s attorney, referred to the gatherings at the beach house as a “sex ring” during a video press conference Wednesday. He repeated allegations made in the lawsuit, saying popes have known about allegations against McCarrick for decades but allowed him to rise to become one of the most powerful prelates in the church. He referred to McCarrick's actions as "50 years of criminal sexual predation" that had been "cloaked in papal power."
McCarrick was bishop of the Metuchen Archdiocese when abuse alleged in the lawsuit occurred. He later became Archbishop of the Newark Archdiocese before taking over the Washington Archdiocese, where he became a cardinal. Allegations that he sexually harassed seminarians at his beach house remained a secret for years before coming to light in 2018.
Related: Vatican defrocks former US cardinal Theodore McCarrick
Two years ago, Newark Archbishop Joseph Tobin acknowledged that claims against McCarrick had been settled years before. Tobin said he learned of the settlements in 2018 shortly before media reports first revealed them. After allegations of child sex abuse surfaced, McCarrick was placed on a list of credibly accused clerics last year.
The former cardinal faces two other lawsuits in New Jersey alleging that he sexually abused boys. Those suits, like Tuesday’s, were filed under a new law that took effect Dec. 1, 2019 making it easier to bring sex abuse civil claims by suspending the statute of limitations for two years. More than 100 such lawsuits have been filed under the law against the state’s five Catholic dioceses.
Tuesday's lawsuit, which was filed in Middlesex County, named the Newark Archdiocese, the Metuchen Diocese and McCarrick among the defendants. The name of the accuser was not revealed in court documents and his attorneys declined to provide information about him. Along with McCarrick, four of the five clerics named in the court papers have been previously accused of sexual abuse.
Three Newark Archdiocese priests — Gerald Ruane, Michael Walters and John Laferrera — allegedly abused the boy at the beach house in 1982 and 1983, when the accuser was between 14 and 16 years old. Last year, the Newark Archdiocese listed each of those priests as having credible accusations of sex abuse made against them. Ruane was listed as deceased; the others had been removed from ministry.
Brother Andrew Thomas Hewitt, the former Essex Catholic principal, was accused of abusing the boy from 1981 to 1983. The Congregation of Christian Brothers lists him as having at least two claims of sexual abuse against him. He died in 2002.
The suit also includes allegations against a priest named Anthony Nardino, who had not been publicly accused before Tuesday. The boy was 11 years old and a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier in Newark in 1978 when the priest allegedly abused him. Anderson said on Wednesday that Nardino left the priesthood in the 1980s.
Anderson said in court papers that McCarrick began abusing the boy shortly after they met in 1982. The boy was “taken on overnight and weekend trips” to the beach house in Sea Girt.
“McCarrick assigned sleeping arrangements, choosing his victims from the boys, seminarians and clerics present at the beach house,” the suit said. “Minor boys were assigned to different rooms and paired with adult clerics.”
Anderson said McCarrick had access to two beach homes. Property records show the Metuchen Diocese purchased a Sea Girt home in 1985, years after Anderson's client was allegedly abused. It was later owned by the Newark Archdiocese, which sold it in 1997. Anderson said he didn't know the exact location of the home where his client was allegedly abused.
The suit also alleges that church officials had known about some allegations against McCarrick for many years.
A lawsuit in New Jersey claims that a McCarrick victim told Pope John Paul II about the alleged abuse in the late 1980s. Pope Benedict XVI reportedly placed restrictions on the cardinal in 2008 over allegations related to adult seminarians but McCarrick allegedly ignored a travel ban with the Vatican's knowledge. And a church official says he told Pope Francis about allegations against McCarrick in 2013, a claim the pope denied.
McCarrick's attorney, Barry Coburn, said in a phone call Wednesday afternoon that he was aware of the complaint but could not comment on it. McCarrick has denied previous allegations of sexual abuse made against him.
A spokeswoman for the Newark Archdiocese said in an email Wednesday that it would be "inappropriate to discuss or comment on matters in litigation." The archdiocese, she said, is working with victims and law enforcement "in an ongoing effort to resolve allegations and bring closure to victims."
The Metuchen Diocese said in a statement that it had not yet received the complaint and that "our prayers are with all survivors of abuse."
As new allegations of sex abuse by priests have been made in lawsuits over the past eight months, McCarrick’s leadership of the Newark Archdiocese has come under increased scrutiny, particularly his handling of sexual abuse allegations.
The findings of a Vatican investigation into McCarrick, initially expected to be out by the end of last year, have not yet been released.
"It's a sad statement that we're still begging for information from the church," said Mark Crawford, the head of the New Jersey chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by priests, known as SNAP.
A woman from Ridgefield Park recently said she told the Newark Archdiocese in 1996, when McCarrick was the archbishop, that her son had been abused by Gerald Sudol at St. Francis of Assisi parish. A mental health facility sent a letter to church officials saying the abuse came up in therapy. Yet Sudol wasn’t removed until 2002 amid a national sex abuse scandal. Later acquitted in a church trial, he lived at a parish with a school until 2018 when additional accusers came forward.
Last year, Seton Hall University said an independent report into allegations that seminarians had been abused found McCarrick had "created a culture of fear and intimidation that supported his personal objectives." The university said at the time that McCarrick "used his position of power" as head of the Newark Archdiocese to "sexually harass seminarians." The school said no university students had been abused.
Two years ago, Tobin said the Newark Archdiocese and Metuchen Diocese had received three claims against McCarrick related to “sexual behavior with adults” and had settled two of them. He said in a statement that the archdiocese “has never received an accusation that Cardinal McCarrick abused a minor.”
In December of last year, two lawsuits were filed in New Jersey alleging that McCarrick abused children. One of the suits, filed on Dec. 1, alleges McCarrick abused a boy who was between 13 and 14 years old and a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi in Hackensack in the mid-1990s.
The other suit, filed days later, alleges McCarrick began abusing a boy from New Jersey in 1969. In that case, the accuser said in court papers that as a man in 1988 he told Pope John Paul II about the abuse during an audience arranged by McCarrick, but that the church didn't take any action.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Theodore McCarrick: Lawsuit alleges ex-cardinal ran NJ sex ring