NEW YORK — Opus Dei, an influential Catholic organization, paid nearly a million dollars to settle a case against a woman accusing one of its most prominent priests of sexual misconduct in 2005.
As first reported by the Washington Post on Monday, the organization — founded in Spain in 1928 and established as a personal prelature by Pope John Paul II — settled a complaint against Father C.J. McCloskey, a noted conservative priest who helped a number of powerful conservatives convert to Catholicism, including now Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and Larry Kudlow, who currently serves as the Director of the National Economic Council.
At the time of the incident, in 2002, McCloskey was head of the Catholic Information Center (CIC), a bookstore and hub of Catholic intellectual and spiritual life on K Street in Washington.
According to the Post report, the woman was receiving spiritual direction from McCloskey at the time due to “marital troubles and spiritual depression,” when the priest allegedly groped her on multiple occasions.
She went on to note that the incidents only furthered her depression and led to her leaving her employment. She also told the Post that she spoke to McCloskey about her “misperceived guilt over the interaction” during confession and he absolved her.
The victim, who has chosen to remain anonymous, is in her fifties and continues to be involved in Opus Dei. She expressed satisfaction with their handling of the case and said she chose to tell her story in case there are other victims who experienced similar treatment.
Brian Finnerty, a U.S. spokesman for Opus Dei, said that they are currently investigating two other misconduct allegations that have yet to be substantiated.
He also noted that this is the only settlement the order has ever had to pay out in the United States and that is was paid for by an anonymous donor.
In a statement posted online on Monday, the CIC, which operates under the auspices of the archdiocese of Washington and not Opus Dei, said the Post’s report was the first they had heard of the settlement.
“While Fr. McCloskey’s misconduct long predates the current CIC leadership, we are deeply saddened by this news,” said the statement. “We wish to sincerely apologize — and offer our fervent prayers — to the victim, and anyone else who has suffered because of this misconduct by Fr. McCloskey.”
Following the settlement, McCloskey was removed from his post and restrictions were placed on his public ministry.
McCloskey, a former Wall Street banker, was ordained a priest in 1981. He previously served as a chaplain at Princeton University before beginning his post at the CIC.
His background in finance led to a natural friendship with individuals like Kudlow and other notable conservatives. In a 2015 interview with the New York Times, Kudlow credited McCloskey with helping him recover from his addiction to cocaine and alcohol.
“Once Father John gets his claws into you, he never lets go,” Kudlow said at the time. “He reaches out and gives you that kind of companionship, and stays in touch.”
After leaving the CIC, he was moved to Chicago, England, and California. During that time, he was a regular book reviewer for the National Catholic Register and provided commentary for EWTN.
In recent years, however, McCloskey, who is now 64, has been living in Virginia and his family told the Post he now suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer participate in public ministry.
Monsignor Thomas Bohlin, vicar of Opus Dei in the United States, said in a statement on Monday that the order had taken efforts to ensure that in recent years, McCloskey’s interactions with women have been “very limited.”
“Throughout the years, we were careful to ensure that he would not have any opportunities to engage in the kind of actions that led to the complaint,” he wrote.
“All harassment and abuse are abhorrent. I am very sorry for any suffering caused to any woman by Father McCloskey’s actions and pray that God may bring healing to her,” he continued.
“I am painfully aware of all that the Church is suffering, and I am very sorry that we in Opus Dei have added to it,” wrote Bohlin.