John Bellocchio, a former Catholic schoolteacher and principal, filed the suit Monday — the first day in New Jersey of a two-year window for survivors of child sexual abuse to sue — said his lawyer, Jeff Anderson.
The suit alleges that McCarrick, whom Pope Francis defrocked as a cardinal earlier this year, sexually assaulted Bellocchio when the priest was visiting the boy’s parish in Hackensack. At the time, McCarrick was archbishop of Newark. He led the Archdiocese of Washington from 2000 to 2006.
“For a very long time I have lived with the humiliation and degradation that he heaped upon me at that time,” Bellocchio said in an interview Tuesday. “For me, this means being able to be a part of the Catholic Church coming to terms with what it has long denied. It’s time for the Catholic Church to confront all of its sins and make amends.”
Bellocchio said he stopped working in the Catholic education system some years ago because of severe panic attacks. He opened a company that places service dogs with people in need.
McCarrick’s lawyer, Barry Coburn, declined to comment Wednesday. Maria Margiotta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Newark, said Tuesday that the archdiocese is committed to helping abuse victims gain “resolution and closure,” pointing to an independent compensation program it set up with other local dioceses.
The Holy See Press Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Nine states have passed legislation this year creating look-back windows for child sexual abuse victims to sue their alleged accusers, said Marci Hamilton, chief executive of Child USA, which advocates for child victims, in an email Tuesday. Seven states opened windows between 2003 and 2018. Overall in 2019, 23 states plus the District “improved” their child sexual abuse statutes of limitations, Hamilton said.
“2019 is a banner year for victims. There have never been this many windows passed in a single year, but also there is more variation,” Hamilton said. “Vermont’s is unlimited in time; New Jersey’s applies to child sex abuse and adult sex assault victims alike; and California passed a second window after having the first open window during 2003."
New York state was flooded with lawsuits in mid-August, when it opened a one-year window for victims. California will open a three-year window on Jan. 1, Anderson said. The District, Montana, Arizona and North Carolina also enacted windows, Hamilton said.
A bill to create a two-year window in Maryland failed in the state Senate in April.
With respect to the new lawsuit against McCarrick, Hamilton wrote: “It is a shame it took New Jersey so many years to pass window legislation as it is the only means to obtain the discovery needed to fully understand how much this institution has known about abuse by the hierarchy. He is the tip of the iceberg.” The Washington Post reported in October that McCarrick has faced accusations the church considers credible from at least seven boys who say they were assaulted between about 1970 and 1990. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Bellocchio was among those accusers.
His suit does not name the Vatican as a defendant but does claim Vatican officials were aware of McCarrick’s behavior, yet continued to promote him to higher positions, including the Washington archdiocese, the Associated Press reported.
“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, now 37, said at a news conference Monday in Newark.