BY Deena Yellin
Former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked after years of sexual abuse allegations, said in an exclusive interview that he did not assault a New Jersey man he is charged with abusing, though he did acknowledge knowing his accuser.
Once one of the most high-profile Catholic leaders in America, McCarrick, the former archbishop of Newark and bishop of Metuchen, has been reclusive in the four years since he was expelled from the clergy by Pope Francis. As of 2021, he was living in a Missouri rehabilitation center for troubled priests, court documents say.
McCarrick, also the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., was a prominent voice and prodigious fundraiser for the Vatican for decades. But he fell from grace amid multiple sexual abuse allegations, including one from a Bergen County native, James Grein, that has prompted a criminal prosecution in Massachusetts.
Grein, who now lives in Virginia, has filed a pair of lawsuits against McCarrick. But his role in the criminal case has been unreported until now. Prosecutors in Massachusetts say McCarrick assaulted Grein, then a teenager, during a 1974 wedding at Wellesley College.
On Monday, the former cardinal’s lawyers filed a filed a motion in the case arguing that McCarrick, now 92, isn’t competent to stand trial because of what they called irreversible dementia.
A brief interview
A day after the filing, a reporter for NorthJersey.com and the USA Today Network New Jersey reached McCarrick on his private phone line. The conversation was brief, lasting less than 10 minutes. The former prelate sounded calm and composed throughout.
“Do you remember James Grein?” the reporter asked. “Yes. I remember him,” McCarrick answered.
He denied the accusations, which involve 20 years of abuse that allegedly started when Grein was 11 years old.
“It is not true,” McCarrick said. “The things he said about me are not true.”
“If you want more information about it, you can talk to my lawyers,” he added.
According to Grein, who grew up in Tenafly and now lives in Virginia, McCarrick was a close family friend who baptized him but then went on to abuse him for years, starting when he was 11 years old. In a separate interview this week, Grein, now 64, said McCarrick would attend the family’s gatherings and vacations and was so close that he was given the nickname “Uncle Ted.”
“He sexually and spiritually abused me,” said Grein, who alleges that the abuse took place in his home, in hotels around the country and during confession.
The conversation with McCarrick on Tuesday came after several unanswered calls to his phone. Eventually, he returned the calls.
After asking about McCarrick’s well-being, this reporter identified herself as a journalist and made it clear she was asking about his accuser.
McCarrick said he was home in Missouri. He said he was “feeling well, considering that I am 92 years old. It’s not like I’m 40 or 50 anymore.”
‘I don’t want to speak of these things’
McCarrick answered questions about Grein politely but made it clear he didn’t want to discuss the case.
“I don’t want to speak of these things,” he said. “You can speak to my lawyer.”
“I hope you will not do a snow job on me,” he added, before hanging up.
McCarrick is charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14. He faces up to five years in prison for each charge, according to Mitch Garabedian, Grein’s attorney. His client has also filed lawsuits against McCarrick in New York and New Jersey.
McCarrick pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges in 2021. In Monday’s filing, his lawyers cited a report by a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine that said McCarrick has “a severe cognitive disorder” and “everyday functional disability” that classifies as dementia, most likely due to Alzheimer’s disease.
Massachusetts prosecutors said they will bring in their own experts in April to assess McCarrick’s competency to stand trial.
Garabedian said McCarrick’s motion to dismiss the case also concedes that the former cardinal can still be “intelligent and articulate.” The dementia claim was “conveniently deceptive,” he said.
He said it could take months for the court to rule on McCarrick’s competency.
McCarrick’s attorney, Barry Coburn, declined to comment.
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