Sex abuse claims against Brooklyn’s Bishop DiMarzio lack ‘semblance of truth’, Vatican rules

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn. / null

New York City, N.Y., Sep 1, 2021 / 14:21 pm (CNA).

Sexual abuse allegations against Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn did not have “the semblance of truth,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has said in its judgement on the results of an investigation made under Pope Francis’ rules for alleged misconduct by bishops.

“I repeat what I have said from the beginning. There is no truth to these allegations,” Bishop DiMarzio said Sept. 1. “Throughout my more than 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never abused anyone.”

The Vatican judgement concerned separate claims from two alleged victims who have filed civil lawsuits alleging Bishop DiMarzio abused them when he was a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark four decades ago. New Jersey in 2019 suspended the statute of limitations for civil sex abuse lawsuits, allowing for a two-year window for lawsuits concerning older allegations.

Under rules implemented by Pope Francis in the May 2019 document Vos estis lux mundi, the metropolitan archbishop investigates allegations of abuse against other bishops in his region. The Holy See authorized Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York to conduct the investigation, which he did through hiring an outside law firm.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reviewed the investigation results and made a determination finding the claims “not to have the semblance of truth.”

“Given this finding, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will not authorize any further canonical process to address the accusations,” the New York archdiocese said in a Sept. 1 statement.

Bishop DiMarzio said he “fully cooperated with this inquiry, because I know I did nothing wrong.”

“I have prayed for a conclusion to this investigation, and these final results further verify, as I have consistently said, that these allegations have absolutely no merit,” he said.

Both accusers are represented by attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who criticized the investigation as “subjective and biased.”

In November 2019, Garabedian sent a letter to the Newark archdiocese reporting that Mark Matzek of New Jersey said he was abused by Bishop DiMarzio and another now-deceased priest at St. Nicholas parish in Jersey City in the 1970s. Metzak, who is now in his late fifties, said the abuse occurred when he was an altar boy. In March 2021 Garabedian filed a lawsuit on Metzak’s behalf seeking $20 million

In June 2020, Samier Tadros accused Bishop DiMarzio of committing abuse in 1979 and 1980 beginning when he was six years old. Bishop DiMarzio was then a priest at Holy Rosary parish in Jersey City. In February 2021 Tadros filed a lawsuit seeking $20 million. Bishop DiMarzio said at the time that he had retained legal counsel and was considering filing a lawsuit over the “libelous” claims.

To investigate the allegations, Cardinal Dolan had hired the law firm of Herbert Smith Freehills. The firm retained the Freeh Group to lead what the New York archdiocese described as “an independent, thorough investigation.” The Freeh Group is headed by Louis Freeh, a former FBI director.

Bishop DiMarzio’s attorney, Joseph A. Hayden, Jr. of the New Jersey law firm Pashman Stein Walder Hayden in Hackensack, N.J., welcomed the decision.

“This decision by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was rendered after an impartial and rigorous factual investigation conducted by former federal prosecutor John O’Donnell, partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, as well as the investigative firm founded by former FBI Director Louis Freeh,” Hayden said. “Both are former law enforcement officials with proven experience and impeccable integrity and the result of their investigation should leave no doubt.”

Garabedian said the investigations were “subjective and biased because the investigators were controlled by and paid for by the Catholic Church,” the Associated Press reports. He said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is “in the business of continuing the secrecy of clergy sexual abuse by hiding the truth.”

In October 2019, just before the first abuse allegation was made public, Bishop DiMarzio had finished heading a Vatican-ordered investigation into accusations of cover-up against Bishop Richard Malone, who was then the Bishop of Buffalo.

Garabedien has said the allegation against Bishop DiMarzio taints his investigation into Bishop Malone and said law enforcement should carry out a new investigation in Buffalo. The attorney has represented several dozen clients alleging abuse against clergy of the Diocese of Buffalo.

In his own comments, Bishop DiMarzio said, “I remain focused on leading the Diocese of Brooklyn as we are emerging from the darkness of the Coronavirus pandemic. I ask for your prayers as I continue to fight against the lawsuits stemming from these two allegations, and as I now look forward to clearing my name in the New Jersey state courts.”

Bishop DiMarzio was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of Newark in 1996. He served as bishop of Camden from 1999 until 2003, when he was installed as the Bishop of Brooklyn. His time in Newark overlaps with Theodore McCarrick, who served as Archbishop of Newark from 1986 to 2000.

In June 2018 the New York archdiocese announced that an abuse allegation against McCarrick was “credible and substantiated.” The announcement led to McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals, a Vatican investigation into McCarrick’s activities and behavior, and major debates about the Church’s handling of sex abuse committed by Catholic bishops.

Several Vos estis investigations have proceeded against U.S. bishops. In March, the Albany diocese said Bishop emeritus Howard Hubbard would be investigated for alleged abuse of an 11-year-old boy in 1977, in a claim that also involves a lawsuit against the bishop and the diocese. Bishop Hubbard has said he is innocent of the allegations.

Bishop John Brungardt of Dodge City is under investigation by Church authorities and local law enforcement for alleged abuse of a minor, a charge he denies. Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston resigned in April after facing two Vos estis investigations for alleged mishandling of cases of priests accused of sexual misconduct.

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