James Grein Files Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit, Saying the Vatican Knew About Cardinal Theodore McCarrick Abusing Him for Decades

A flood of lawsuits against Catholic dioceses, clergy and the Boy Scouts of America was filed Sunday as new New Jersey law that waives the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse took effect. James Grein, who alleges he was abused by the priest who would become Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, claims the Vatican found out about his abuse in 1988 but did not take action.

The lawsuit, which names McCarrick, the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen, claims McCarrick sexually abused Grein for two decades, beginning when Grein was 11 in the late 1960s and McCarrick was a priest in New York. The case says some of the abuse occurred when McCarrick took Grein along with him on trips to the Vatican in Rome.

On a trip to Rome in about 1988, Grein allegedly waited until McCarrick left the room to tell Pope John Paul II in the presence of other Vatican officials that McCarrick had been sexually assaulting him.

“[The Pope] put both hands on my head, and told me he would pray for me,” Grein told the New York Times in August.

The Vatican took no action, nor did the Archdiocese of Newark of Diocese of Metuchen.

In 1988, McCarrick, now 89, was the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark. He also served as the bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen from 1981–1986 and was the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. from 2001–2006. He became a Cardinal, a leading bishop in the Catholic Church, in 2001. He was well-known for his advocacy in international and public policy issues, but this past February, became the first Cardinal to be defrocked for sexual abuse after an investigation showed he had abused children and adults.

The suit accuses the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark for gross negligence. It also accuses McCarrick of assault, battery and infliction of emotional distress. Grein is seeking unspecified damages. His lawyer, attorney Mitchell Garabedian, said he was working to also include the Vatican as a defendant, according to AP.

McCarrick was a family friend of Grein who had baptised him — and then later allegedly groomed him for abuse. McCarrick took Grein on trips around the country and to Rome, and introduced him to others as his “special nephew,” Grein told AP.

“I was introduced as ‘his special nephew’ to presidents and heads of state, to the pope, bishops, cardinals and the rich and famous, and to other predators across the world as his ‘special boy,’” Grein told AP. “The word special was a signal that I am groomed. How sad is that?”

Grein was an adult in 1988 when he allegedly told the Pope and Vatican officials about the abuse he had been enduring, and the lawsuit states Grein abused him at least twice more after that in New Jersey.

Grein is able to file this lawsuit under a new law in New Jersey that is suspending the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse victims for two years. Previously, child sexual abuse victims in the state only had until they were 20 to bring the case. The new statute of limitations will allow victims of child sexual abuse to file civil action until the victim reaches the age of 55, or within 7 years of their discovery that the abuse caused them harm, whichever date is later.

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New York implemented a one-year look-back window under the Child Victims Act in August. As of Dec. 5, 1,176 lawsuits have been filed in New York, according to the Brooklyn Eagle. Grein filed a similar lawsuit in New York in August under the Child Victims Act.

Related Story: New York Child Victims Act “Look-Back Window” Begins, Allowing Adult Survivors to File Civil Suits

In 2018, Pope Francis urged ordained men who were perpetrators to turn themselves in.

The Vatican held a sexual abuse summit in February, where hundreds of people from around the world attended and many survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy told their stories.  After the summit, the Vatican faced criticism because the Pope largely blamed “Satan” and “evil” for the abuse, barely mentioning clericalism.