A former Archbishop of Newark was named in a $ 50 million lawsuit for alleged ecclesiastical sexual abuse of an innocent 5-year-old girl on a number of occasions in 1976.
According to court records, Archbishop Peter Gerety, who died in 2016 at the age of 104, won the trust of the young victim’s financially troubled family by delivering home meals. The former priest is said to have volunteered to look after the little girl while her mother, a seamstress, was at work.
While Gerety was caring for the child in the church parsonage, he reportedly invited the young girl into his bedroom, where he inappropriately touched her and had fun in front of her several times, the lawsuit said.
Gerety was Archbishop of Newark from 1974 until his retirement in 1986. The shamed priest had served in New Haven, Connecticut and Portland, Maine before entering Newark, FoxNews said.
The victim, identified only by the pen name Clara Doe, is now 49 years old and lives in Pennsylvania. She and her family were former parishioners of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark.
“As a child, I mistakenly thought that God had expressly sent Archbishop Gerety to my mother and family to save us and help us get food,” the victim’s statement in the lawsuit said. “I felt I had no choice but to do what Archbishop Gerety had ordered.”
The abuse reportedly stopped after the young Doe repeatedly and vehemently refused to be alone with Gerety. The ordeal had affected the victim’s mental health as she battled anxiety and depression in her teens and dangerously suicidal by the age of 20. Since then, she has needed regular medication and therapy.
Doe had the courage to trust her older sister with abuse at the age of 13. The sisters never passed Gerety’s indecent behavior on to their pious mother until the matriarch’s death, according to an affidavit.
The lawsuit seeks $ 50 million in damages and additional unspecified reparations from the estate of the deceased bishop, the Church, and various other undisclosed people and groups.
“This case shows how systematic and ubiquitous child sexual abuse was and is in the Catholic Church,” said attorney John Baldante, the victim’s attorney.
Gerety was replaced by Theodore McCarrick as Archbishop of Newark. In 2019, a church investigation found that McCarrick had sexually abused not only minors but also adult seminarians, the Daily News reported.
New Jersey Catholic officials released a list two years ago of more than 180 priests who were credibly accused of having molested minors for decades. Although Gerety was not mentioned on the list, McCarrick, who succeeded him as Archbishop of Newark, was included.
Church leaders are silent and have not commented on the litigation. However, a spokesman associated with the Church said the body is trying to resolve the allegations and shut down the victim.