NEW YORK — Following a trend throughout the country, New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses released on Wednesday the names of its priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.
In total, 188 names were included on the five lists: 63 from Newark, 56 from Camden, 30 from Trenton, 28 from Patterson, and 11 from Metuchen.
While the majority of the priests named are deceased, one name appearing on two lists remains the subject of intense controversy: Theodore McCarrick.
Earlier this summer, McCarrick, the former bishop of Metuchen and later archbishop of Newark (and then Washington, D.C.), was credibly accused of abusing an altar boy while serving as a priest of the archdiocese of New York during the 1970s.
McCarrick would go on to become one of the most prominent members of the U.S. Church, and the scandal surrounding him led Pope Francis to accept McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals last summer, along with removing him from ministry.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the powerful Vatican body that investigates abuse against minors, is expected to issue a decision on whether to laicize McCarrick in the coming days. Should the Vatican make such a move, McCarrick would be permanently removed from the priesthood.
The archdiocese of Newark included McCarrick in its full listing, noting: “Archbishop Theodore McCarrick has been included on the list based on the findings of the Archdiocese of New York that allegations of abuse of a minor against then Father McCarrick were credible and substantiated.”
The diocese of Metuchen made mention of McCarrick in a footnote, stating that “The first Bishop of Metuchen, Theodore McCarrick, is currently involved in a Church trial by the Holy See for the abuse of a minor when he was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.”
To date, more than 70 Catholic dioceses and numerous religious orders throughout the country have released lists of priests accused of abuse, although controversy remains over the sometimes opaque definition of what “credibly accused” entails.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) does not offer uniform guidelines for dioceses releasing lists of accused priests.
In an interview with Crux in December, Kathleen McChesney, former executive director of the USCCB’s Office of Child Protection and now CEO of Kinsale Consulting, said “generally credible means the allegation could have taken place in terms of individuals involved, location, date and plausibility.”
On Wednesday, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said he was releasing names “in an effort to do what is right and just.”
New Jersey remains one of more than a dozen states around the country where the Catholic Church is facing an investigation into its handling of sex abuse cases.
In response to Wednesday’s publication of the list, the state’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal released a statement confirming that the investigation remains underway.
“While this is a positive first step towards transparency and accountability, I hope this spirit of openness continues during the course of our ongoing investigation and in response to our requests for records and information,” said Grewal.