Sex Abuse Survivor Suing the Vatican

"The change absolutely has to come from the top."

Brendan Keany
December 09, 2019 - 12:44 pm

AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

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MANHATTAN (WBEN) - During a Monday press conference in Manhattan, sex abuse survivor John Bellocchio and legal representative Jeff Anderson announced a lawsuit against the Vatican for abuse by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

"The reason that I chose not to do this anonymously, and the reason that I chose to do this using my own name is because, when it comes to the truth, there is nothing to hide," said Bellocchio. "When we are shining light forward on what truly amounts to darkness, there is nothing with owning the fact that you can guide that light, and that is exactly why I chose to do this without anonymity, granted by the law, but instead to use my name to be able to be able to move forward and to help the Catholic Church move forward because it is time that they own, name and acknowledge their sins, and clean their house from the top down."

McCarrick formerly served as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York and the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington D.C.

Anderson says "McCarrick sexually abused Bellocchio approximately 7 years after another individual reported his own abuse as a minor by McCarrick to Pope John Paul II and the Holy See in approximately 1988."

Bellocchio and Anderson are asking the Federal Court of the Southern District of New York to require the following from the Vatican:

1.    Release all the identities of thousands of offenders known exclusively by the
Vatican and held in strict secrecy;
2.   Release the files and pertinent histories of the thousands of offenders;
3.   Release the identities of the top officials accused of sexual abuse worldwide,
including the histories of each known only by the Vatican;
4.  Report all evidence held secretly in its possession in the papal office of clerical

Anderson spoke with WBEN following the press conference, and he said that there is legal precedent behind this lawsuit. He sued the Vatican in 2001, and the courts ruled that they do have jurisdiction over any country that engages in commercial activity or commits reckless, wrongful conduct in the United States. The Vatican has a commercial enterprise in the United States, and according to Anderson, there is a commercial activities exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act - meaning they have law and precedent to bring the case against the Vatican in federal court. The case Anderson originally brought forward against the Vatican was thrown away in 2011, but he says it helped pave the way for future action such as this, and he added that they learned a lot from their last attempt.

"In order to bring and sustain a claim against them, we have to establish that the offender is under the direct control of the pope," said Anderson. "In this case, the offender, Cardinal McCarrick, who was an archbishop at the time that he offended this plaintiff, was under the direct control of whom? The pope - the Vatican.

"We have a coverup of sexual abuse by McCarrick, then Archbishop McCarrick, by John Paul II, the then-presiding papal authority, and silence and inaction by his successors and his predecessors," Anderson continued. "This case implicates wrongdoing, not just by the cardinal archbishop - the offender himself - but implicates wrongdoing, complicity in silence and coverup by three popes - John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis, who, by his silence and inaction, allowed the same practices that protected McCarrick and others to remain in place."

Siobhan O'Connor has become the face of the movement for change within Buffalo Diocese, as she formerly served as then Bishop Richard Malone's executive assistant before becoming a whistleblower and victims advocate. O'Connor attended the press conference to show support for Bellocchio, and she spoke to the need for a massive cultural overhaul within the church.

"The change absolutely has to come from the top," she began. "If that toxic secrecy and that culture that enable this kind of behavior and crimes, and also facilitates the coverup, if that doesn't change at the top, how can we expect it to change any farther down the line?"

Listen to O'Connor's full comments below:

Anderson lauded Bellocchio for his desire to come forward, and he indicated that it will be people like him who are responsible for bringing justice.

"John Bellocchio, thank you for, not just those words, but your courage in standing up today to do what needs to be done to clean house at the top down as you said you wanted to do last week by filing this federal case today against the Vatican," said Anderson.

Listen to Anderson's full comments below:

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