James was 11 years old when Father Theodore E. McCarrick came into his bedroom in Northern New Jersey, looking for the bathroom. Father McCarrick, then 39 and a rising star in the Roman Catholic church, was a close family friend, whom James and his six siblings called Uncle Teddy. James was changing out of his bathing suit to get ready for dinner.
“He said, turn around,” James, who is now 60, recalled in an interview last week. “And I really don’t want to, because I don’t want to show anybody anything.” But he did, he said, and was shocked when Father McCarrick dropped his pants, too. “See, we are the same,” James said he told him. “It’s O.K., we are the same.”
It was the beginning of a sexually abusive relationship that would last nearly 20 years, James said in the interview, the first time he has spoken publicly about the trauma. He asked that his last name be withheld to protect a sibling.
As the decades passed, Father McCarrick became Cardinal McCarrick, one of the most prominent public faces of the Catholic Church in America. He was suddenly removed from ministry last month over a substantiated allegation that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old altar boy in 1971.
The news changed James’s life. “I got down on my knees and I thanked God that I am not alone and it is going to be O.K.,” James said, through sobs, recalling the moment. “And I can tell somebody and someone is going to believe me.”
Interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times after Cardinal McCarrick’s removal showed that some in the church hierarchy had known for decades about allegations that he was sexually harassing and touching adult seminarians. On Monday, The Times reported that a former priest, Robert Ciolek, had received an $80,000 settlement in 2005, in part over allegations that Cardinal McCarrick, as a New Jersey bishop in the 1980s, had sexually harassed and inappropriately touched him. Another former seminarian received a $100,000 settlement for similar allegations in 2007.
But James’ allegations — that he was repeatedly sexually abused as a minor — are the most explosive yet to be leveled against the cardinal, who is now 88 and living in seclusion in the Washington, D.C., area. On Monday, James filed a police report detailing his accusations against the cardinal with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, where he lives.
Cardinal McCarrick, through a spokeswoman, Susan Gibbs, said on Wednesday that he had not been notified of the accusation, so he could not respond. But she said he was committed to following the process the church has put in place for abuse allegations.
James said he had tried to tell his father that he was being abused when he was 15 or 16. But Father McCarrick was so beloved by his family, he said, and considered so holy, that the idea was unfathomable.
James was baptized by Father McCarrick on June 15, 1958, two weeks after he was ordained as a priest, records from Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tenafly, N.J., show.
“He had chosen me to be his special boy,” James said in the phone interview, with his lawyer, Patrick Noaker, listening. “If I go back to my family, they tell me that it’s good for you to be with him. And if you go to try to tell somebody, they say ‘I think you are mistaken.’ So what you do is you clam up, and you stay inside your own little shoe box, and you don’t come out for 40 years.”
After James learned the cardinal had been removed, he began to tell his siblings what had happened to him. His sister Karen said in an interview that her brother had been particularly close to the young priest.
“It was explained to us how Jimmy was special to Father McCarrick, because of that very special thing that happened, that he was his first baptism,” Karen said.
The connection between Father McCarrick and James’s family was deep. The cardinal has talked in interviews about how his best high school friend was from a Swiss family, and how the two men spent a year in Switzerland after graduation. That friend was James’s uncle.
Karen, now 62, remembered that the young priest would bring her family marshmallow candies each Halloween and hard candy each Christmas.
“I never thought about him other than Uncle Teddy,” she said. “He was equal to the other uncles, and very much a part of our lives.”
When the family moved to Hillsborough, Calif., in 1971, Father McCarrick visited repeatedly, James recalled. James had a difficult transition to his new home, and was struggling in school and getting into trouble. In 1972, James asked Father McCarrick to write him a recommendation to a boarding school. He did, James said.
By then, James said, Father McCarrick had begun abusing him sexually. When he was 13, he said, the priest first touched his penis. At 14, he said, Father McCarrick masturbated him in a beach parking lot. When he was 15, James said, Father McCarrick took him to a restaurant in San Francisco, the Tonga Room, and poured vodka in his drinks. He then brought him back to his hotel room and masturbated him and brought himself to orgasm, James said.
“I was absolutely disgusted, afraid,” James said. “I felt fear. What have I done?”
On visits to the East Coast, James, then 16 or 17, said he would go with other boys with Father McCarrick to a fishing camp in Eldred, N.Y., identical to the one described by adult seminarians who said McCarrick abused them there. On these visits, they would sleep together naked, James said, and Father McCarrick would touch him.
When James turned 18, he joined the Navy, and was stationed outside Chicago. When Father McCarrick, who became a bishop in 1977, was in town, he would call James to his hotel. When James was transferred to San Diego, Bishop McCarrick would invite him to the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles, James said.
“He introduced me to the most incredible people in the whole wide world,” James said, adding that the bishop introduced him as his nephew. “Bob Hope. I met the scarecrow from the ‘Wizard of Oz.’”
James described repeated sexual touching that always stopped short of intercourse. There was no kissing, no holding hands, which is also how the adult seminarians had described their alleged abuse. Like James, they said the bishop called himself “Uncle Ted” and them his “nephews.”
James left the Navy in 1980, he said, and moved back to the East Coast. He said he would sometimes stay overnight with Bishop McCarrick in the rectory in Metuchen, N.J., and later in Newark, after Bishop McCarrick was promoted to archbishop in 1986.
By then, James said he was drinking heavily and doing drugs, habits that began in his teenage years. He said he tried to dissociate himself from the archbishop in 1985, after meeting a woman he went on to marry.
The last time he visited Archbishop McCarrick, in 1989, he asked for money, he said; McCarrick refused, and never called him again. By then, James was 31.
Instead of feeling relief, James said, he spiraled downward. “I am done,” he said. “He has thrown me away.”
His marriage fell apart, and in 1991, he said, he attempted suicide. He landed in detox and has been sober since, he said.
Through his life, James said, he only told a few people that the priest had abused him. His younger brother. His uncle, Cardinal McCarrick’s former friend, now deceased, who advised him to take the secret to his grave. As James became sober, he also told his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor and a therapist, he said.
But now James wants to take action against Cardinal McCarrick, to give courage to others who might have been abused, and to find some justice for himself, he said.
His lawyer, Mr. Noaker, said that James’s police report will be forwarded to sex crimes investigators in San Francisco, New Jersey and possibly New York. He provided The Times with a copy of the report’s receipt, dated Monday. The statute of limitations on child sex abuse crimes may block criminal charges or civil lawsuits, but Mr. Noaker is hopeful. He will also seek compensation from the church.
James’s sister, Karen, said that she was horrified and surprised when he told her in late June that the cardinal had abused him. She recalled how she had attended Bishop McCarrick’s installation as archbishop of Washington in 2000 as part of his official entourage. “We were part of a superstar’s life,” she said.
But she said she believed James “100 percent.”
“My brother has had such a horrible life,” she said, “it just doesn’t make any sense, that his life would have been so different from his six siblings. Father Ted was supposed to fix this horrible boy, and he sure fixed him.”
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