At an abuse hearing in New York City, James Grein, above, revealed that he had suffered sexual molestation on numerous occasions at the hands of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
In one instance McCarrick masturbated Grein in a car. When McCarrick dropped Grein back at his home, he allegedly told Grein’s parents that the mess was caused by a spilled soda, so Grein’s mother went to clean up the car seat.
Grein was testifying last week before the judicial vicar for the New York City archdiocese, who was asked by the Holy See to record his testimony for the Vatican’s canonical case against McCarrick.
Grein’s testimony, which lasted about an hour, was difficult and stressful but he was was proud to have done it, his attorney Patrick Noaker said.
He wants his church back. He felt that in order to accomplish that end, he had to go in and testify here and tell them what happened, and give the church itself the chance to do the right thing,
Grein initially came forward in July after the New York archdiocese announced that a church investigation determined an allegation that McCarrick, above, had groped another teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible.
Grein’s claims, first reported by The New York Times, are more serious. He has alleged that McCarrick first exposed himself to Grein when he was 11 and then sexually molested him for years thereafter.
Noaker said Grein also gave “chilling” details about alleged repeated incidents of groping during confession.
Grein testified that McCarrick — a close family friend who baptised him — would take him upstairs to hear his confession before celebrating Mass for the family at home.
He touched James’ genitals as part of the confessional. That became the course, it happened almost every time. McCarrick would absolve Grein and:
Touch him on the forehead, shoulder, chest and genitals.
Noaker said combining sexual abuse with a sacrament like confession haunts Grein to this day.
People are vulnerable in the confessional. Very vulnerable. If you manipulate that, and try to sexualise that, it’s extremely emotionally damaging.
McCarrick denied the initial groping allegation of the altar boy and has said through his lawyer that he looks forward to his right to due process. It wasn’t clear when he would testify in the Vatican case.
The McCarrick scandal sparked a credibility crisis for the US and Vatican church hierarchies, since it was apparently an open secret for some that “Uncle Ted” slept with adult seminarians. Yet McCarrick still rose to the heights of church power, and even acted as the spokesman for US bishops when they enacted a “zero tolerance” policy against sexually abusive priests in 2002.
Pope Francis initially ordered McCarrick removed from public ministry in June after he was accused of groping the teenage altar boy – the first known allegation against him involving a teen. A month later, after former seminarians and Grein came forward, Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal and ordered him to live a lifetime of penance and prayer while the canonical process ran its course.
Now 88, the former archbishop of Washington is living at a Kansas religious residence.
The Vatican is under pressure to finalise its case against McCarrick before Francis hosts church leaders at a February sex abuse prevention summit, since Francis himself has been implicated in the years-long cover-up of McCarrick’s misconduct with adults.
If convicted by the Vatican, Francis could defrock McCarrick or give him a lesser penalty.
While victims have long complained about the way they have been treated during canonical proceedings, Noaker praised the judicial vicar, the Rev Richard Welch, saying he was compassionate, respectful and patient during Grein’s testimony.
Referring to the incident in the car, Noaker said:
That was a really psychologically damaging moment.
The lawyer added that reliving the incident was traumatic for Grein:
He closed his eyes. He was sitting in that car with McCarrick, and you could see it. It was moving and terrifying.
Last month Noaker, who is representing others who had allegedly been abused by McCarrick, was reported as saying:
I have absolutely no confidence these men will receive justice from the Vatican. They protect their bishops and cardinals like princes, like the Saudis protect theirs.
Grein has told AP in the past that he suffered for decades with immense shame and guilt as a result of the abuse. He said he struggled with alcoholism, which broke up his marriage, and attempted suicide multiple times.
In addition to the canonical case against McCarrick, a police report against McCarrick was filed in July against the ex-cardinal by Noaker.
In the video below, Grein revealed that his father was “adamant” that his children attend Catholic schools because, ironically, he did not believe they would receive “moral teachings” in any public school.