A new accuser has come forward alleging sexual abuse by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who once led the Catholic Church here in Washington and beyond.
The New Jersey man spoke out for the first time Monday as the state opened a window giving sex abuse victims of any age the right to sue, regardless of the statute of limitations.
John Bellocchio, now 37, said the abuse happened around 1995 in Hackensack, New Jersey, when he was just 14 years old. McCarrick was the archbishop of Newark at the time and visiting the local parish.
Bellocchio's lawsuit against McCarrick and the Archdiocese of Newark alleges the latter "knew or should have known that McCarrick was a danger to children before McCarrick sexually assaulted Plaintiff."
"I want there to be real, effective change from the top down," Bellocchio said. "It is time for the bishops, the archbishops, the cardinals and even the Holy Father to stop hiding behind their titles and their robes and acknowledge the truth that lies in front of them and to fix it."
Flanked by a team of attorneys, Bellocchio explained that even though he had the right to file his lawsuit anonymously, he felt compelled to speak publicly to shed light on the Catholic Church's role in the scandal.
His complaint accused the Vatican and two popes, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, of being complicit in concealing what they knew about McCarrick for years. The church has previously acknowledged paying at least two settlements to clergy members who accused McCarrick of inappropriate behavior.
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"It is time that they own, claim and acknowledge their sins and clean the house from the top down," Bellocchio said.
After his time in New Jersey, McCarrick went on to become the archbishop in Washington, D.C., and was named cardinal. He resigned in 2018 amid sex abuse allegations and was dismissed from the clergy in February 2019.
"McCarrick has been protected for decades, has been given safe harbor in his predatory ways for decades," said attorney Jeff Anderson, whose firm specializes in advocating for child sex abuse victims in multiple states.
The Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) applauded Bellocchio for speaking out.
"We hope that this latest case will encourage other victims who may still be suffering in silence to come forward and get help," said SNAP Treasurer Becky Ianni.
Ianni, a survivor who came forward decades after her abuse, has advocated for law changes allowing victims a longer amount of time for legal recourse.
"This story is further proof that it is impossible to fully know the depth of abuse and perpetrated by religious figures like McCarrick," Ianni said. "That this survivor has come forward now is exactly why we constantly ask church officials to do outreach to victims and survivors regularly, not simply make a simple public statement after abuse allegations are revealed."
The New Jersey law that took effect Sunday allows a two-year window for victims to file lawsuits against their abusers and institutions that protected them.
A similar law took effect in New York earlier this year, and more than 1,100 lawsuits have been filed there since August, including at least one accusing McCarrick.
That New York victim, James Grein, has told News4 he also expects to file a new lawsuit in New Jersey later this week. He claims his abuse lasted nearly two decades and that the sexual encounters happened in multiple states.
McCarrick is believed to be the most senior Catholic Church official defrocked in connection with the clergy sex abuse scandal.