VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has taken testimony from a man who says ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually abused him for years starting when he was 11, evidence that the initial case against the retired archbishop has expanded to include serious allegations of misconduct.
James Grein testified Thursday in New York before the judicial vicar for the New York City archdiocese, who was asked by the Holy See to take his statement, said Grein’s civil attorney Patrick Noaker.
The testimony, which lasted about an hour, was difficult and stressful but Grein was proud to have done it, 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,” Noaker said in a telephone interview Friday.
Grein initially came forward in July after the New York archdiocese announced that a church investigation determined that an allegation that McCarrick 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, a family friend, first exposed himself to Grein when he was 11 and then sexually molested him for years thereafter.
Noaker said that in his testimony Thursday, Grein also gave “chilling” details about alleged repeated incidents of groping during confession — a serious canonical crime on top of the original offense of sexually abusing a minor.
Noaker said combining sexual abuse with religious confession haunts Grein today.
“That’s really emotional damage and manipulation that’s almost unforgivable,” he said.
McCarrick denied the initial groping allegation of the altar boy and said through his lawyer he looks forward to invoking his right to due process. It wasn’t clear when his testimony would be given. A spokesman for the New York archdiocese said he had no information on that.
The McCarrick scandal has sparked a crisis in credibility in the U.S. and Vatican hierarchies, since it was apparently an open secret in some church circles that “Uncle Ted” slept with adult seminarians.
Pope Francis initially ordered McCarrick removed from ministry duties after he was credibly accused of groping the teenage altar boy. 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, he is living at a Kansas religious residence.
While victims have long complained about the way they have been treated during canonical proceedings, Noaker praised the conduct of the judicial vicar, the Rev. Richard Welch, saying he was compassionate, kind and patient during the testimony.
The Associated Press does not identify people who say they’re victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission. Grein initially asked to be identified only by his first name but has since gone public with his full name.
In addition to the canonical case against McCarrick, Noaker filed a police report against McCarrick in July.