An explosive New York Times article today details the sexual abuse seminarians and priests endured under Cardinal Theodore McCarrickand the many reports of it bishops and Vatican officials received and ignored.
“I have blown the whistle for 30 years without getting anywhere,” Father Boniface Ramsey, a former seminary professor at Seton Hall University from 1986 to 1996, said. Seminarians told Fr. Ramsey about the cardinal taking them to his beach house, where he would assign one young man to sleep in his bed, an assignment accompanied by unwanted back rubs by which seminarians were “disgusted.”
Ramsey reported McCarrick’s predatory behavior to former papal nuncio Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo “and at his encouragement sent a letter to the Vatican about Archbishop McCarrick’s history” when he was appointed to be archbishop of Washington. He never received a response.
He also reported McCarrick to former New York Cardinal Edward Egan, who is now deceased, and in 2015 Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley. The New York Times noted O’Malley was “appointed by Pope Francis to lead a commission on sexual abuse of children” and he declined to comment for their article.
The more than 3,000-word article features, for the first time, the testimony of one of two known recipients of a settlement from the Church over McCarrick’s abuse. Both are former priests. The piece notes that one of the challenges to stopping predator clerics is that sexually assaulting an adult is not considered a canonical “crime” like abusing children is – and that it was McCarrick who helped draft the bishops’ policy on protecting “children and young people,” which contains “no procedures for holding bishops accountable other than ‘fraternal correction’ by fellow bishops.”
Robert Ciolek received an $80,000 settlement from the Dioceses of Trenton, Metuchen, and Newark. One of the conditions of that settlement was that he sign a confidentiality agreement, from which he has now been released. After the news of McCarrick’s repulsive behavior was made public and he was removed from public ministry, the current bishops of Metuchen and Newark – Bishop James F. Checchio and Pope Francis-appointed left-wing Cardinal Joseph Tobin – apologized to Ciolek.
The other settlement recipient, “who declined to be interviewed and whose file was provided on condition that his name not be used,” ended up abusing two boys himself.
The Times reported:
In the summer of 1987, this former priest alleged, Archbishop McCarrick took him to an Italian restaurant in New York City, and then to the small apartment above the hospital. (Mr. Ciolek described the room in similar terms.)
There, Archbishop McCarrick asked the seminarian to change into a striped sailor shirt and a pair of shorts he had on hand, and joined him in the bed, according to the seminarian’s written account. “He put his arms around me and wrapped his legs between mine,” the account states.
He also wrote that he once saw Archbishop McCarrick having sex with a young priest in a cabin at the Eldred fishing camp, and that the archbishop invited him to be “next.”
The first documented complaint about Cardinal McCarrick came at the latest by 1994, when the second priest wrote a letter to the new Bishop of Metuchen, Edward T. Hughes, saying that Archbishop McCarrick had inappropriately touched him and other seminarians in the 1980s, according to the documents.
The priest had a disturbing confession, the documents show. He told Bishop Hughes that he was coming forward because he believed the sexual and emotional abuse he endured from Archbishop McCarrick, as well as several other priests, had left him so traumatized that it triggered him to touch two 15-year-old boys inappropriately. The Metuchen diocese sent the priest to therapy, and then transferred him to another diocese. But Archbishop McCarrick’s stature remained intact; he was even given the honor of hosting John Paul II on a visit to Newark in 1995 and leading a large public Mass there for the pope.
Around 1999, Mr. Ciolek was called in by Archbishop McCarrick’s former secretary in Metuchen, Msgr. Michael J. Alliegro, who knew about the trips with seminarians, including the bed-sharing. He asked Mr. Ciolek, who had left the priesthood in 1988 to marry a woman, if he planned to sue the diocese, and then mentioned Archbishop McCarrick’s name. “And I literally laughed, and I said, no,” Mr. Ciolek said, adding that the monsignor responded with a sigh of relief.