Here's what we uncovered this year about Cardinal McCarrick, beach houses and sex abuse
A series of investigations by The Record and NorthJersey.com this year exposed new information about former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s rise to power through the church hierarchy despite abuse allegations that surfaced as early as the 1980s.
The Record and NorthJersey.com also reported this year that church officials tried to curtail McCarrick’s use of a Jersey Shore beach house, where he allegedly abused seminarians, as far back as the 1980s.
His time as archbishop of Newark included the purchase of at least two beach homes, including one tied to a mysterious debt, and a pattern of ignoring abuse allegations against priests under his control — in one case when the claim was bolstered by a letter from the therapist of a deceased victim.
The investigations also found that a still-secret church inquiry uncovered new evidence related to allegations that a priest stole $1 million from two parishes in New York and used the money to pay for lavish vacations along with sex and bondage sessions at a Jersey Shore home he bought for cash.
The investigations came amid a difficult year for the church in New Jersey, as more than 240 sex abuse lawsuits were filed since last December, when the state suspended the civil statute of limitations for such cases.
McCarrick, who had been accused of sexually abusing adult seminary students and minors, is named in at least four lawsuits alleging that he also abused children.
A Vatican report released in November revealed that Pope John Paul II promoted McCarrick, then the archbishop of Newark, to be the head of the Washington, D.C., archdiocese in 2001 despite widespread concerns about McCarrick’s behavior around seminary students.
The report laid the blame on three New Jersey bishops, all deceased, who did not tell the Vatican all they knew when church officials asked them for information about McCarrick. Two of the bishops failed to mention that they once witnessed the prelate groping a young man.
First attempts to restrain McCarrick
In the late 1980s, a seminary teacher at Seton Hall University went to Bishop Frank Rodimer of the Paterson diocese with students’ complaints that McCarrick sexually harassed them during overnight stays at a home in Sea Girt. The bishop indicated he would contact the Vatican’s U.S. representatives.
"Something had to be done," said the teacher who made the report, the Rev. Ed Reading. "It's emotional abuse and a power problem."
Two weeks later, church officials made an unannounced visit to the Newark Archdiocese in an apparent effort to clamp down on McCarrick’s use of the beach home. It may have been the first attempt to curtail McCarrick’s activities, but the consequences appear to have been fleeting.
Second shore home and mysterious debt
In 1997, under pressure from church officials, McCarrick was forced to sell the Sea Girt home. But the Archdiocese of Newark purchased a replacement in a much better location, on a spit of land jutting out into Barnegat Bay in Brick Township.
That house had been owned by a priest who had been a close colleague of McCarrick when he was the bishop of the Metuchen diocese. The priest, Monsignor Francis Crine, was McCarrick's director of personnel.
After the monsignor died in 1989, the Diocese of Metuchen demanded that the house be turned over to the church to repay a mysterious debt owed to St. James parish in Woodbridge, where Crine had been the pastor. Property records show the house was transferred to the parish to repay a debt owed by the priest.
It was later transferred from the parish to the Metuchen diocese for $1, and then sold to the Archdiocese of Newark in 1997, giving McCarrick a replacement for the house in Sea Girt. There are no known allegations of abuse related to the Brick home.
The Vatican's report on McCarrick briefly mentioned the home, which was first revealed in a report by The Record and NorthJersey.com. Officials of the Diocese of Metuchen and Archdiocese of Newark have said they have no information about the debt or the purpose of property transfers that left the home in McCarrick’s hands in 1997.
McCarrick ignores allegations
McCarrick allowed several priests to continue working as clerics after he was made aware of abuse allegations against them, victims have said.
Mark Crawford, now a victims' advocate, said he went to Newark Archdiocese officials in 1983 to report he had been abused by the Rev. Kenneth Martin, a Bayonne priest. Years later, Martin was promoted to be McCarrick’s personal secretary in the Newark Archdiocese.
Crawford said he met with McCarrick in 1997 and told him that he and his brother had been abused and beaten by Martin. But he said McCarrick didn't take any actions. Martin continued working as a priest until he was removed from ministry in 2002 amid a national sex abuse scandal in the church.
McCarrick also had evidence in the 1990s that the Rev. Gerald Sudol abused a boy at St. Francis parish in Ridgefield Park.
The boy’s mother told The Record and NorthJersey.com through an attorney that she reported the abuse to Newark Archdiocese officials in 1996. The following year, after her son died of a brain aneurysm, a mental health facility where he had been a patient sent a letter to the archdiocese saying the abuse allegations came up during therapy sessions. Church officials told the boy’s parents in a subsequent letter that McCarrick would consider what to do about the case "in a loving and pastoral manner.”
Yet Sudol continued working as a priest for decades. In 2002, he was suspended as the church grappled with a national scandal, but he was restored to ministry after being acquitted in a church trial. In 2018, he was living in a Jersey City parish with a school when three more accusers from Ridgefield Park came forward. He was moved out of the church and has been placed on a list of credibly accused priests.
Priest allegedly stole $1 million
The Archdiocese of New York recently sent a report to the Vatican that included new evidence about a priest, the Rev. Peter Miqueli, who allegedly stole $1 million from two parishes. The head of that investigation said in an audio recording provided to The Record and NorthJersey.com that he found the priest had been protected by clergy who worked in the archdiocesan headquarters, but who are no longer there.
"It's crystal clear exactly what went on in this case," Father Richard Welch, until recently the New York Archdiocese judicial vicar, said in the recording. He said church officials in Rome were "going to see that he was protected" and that there "is no doubt about that. That makes it even more egregious, especially in the climate today. You cannot tolerate coverups or hiding this stuff."
He promised parishioners that the investigation would be made public and information about the alleged thefts provided to law enforcement. However, church officials recently said the case is closed after Miqueli was found dead at his Brick home over the summer, and no information about the matter would be released.
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