Time to redouble effort to protect most vulnerable

NOTE: The following letter was published in the June 28, 2018 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.

June 25, 2018

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The sad and shocking news regarding our diocese’s founding bishop, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick went viral soon after it was made public. On June 20, Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced that the Archdiocese of New York had investigated allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor by Cardinal McCarrick nearly 50 years ago when he was a priest in the Archdiocese.

The statement said in part that, in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, this allegation first was turned over to law enforcement officials, and was then thoroughly investigated by an independent forensic agency. Then, the Archdiocesan Review Board, which consists of a seasoned group of professionals including jurists, law enforcement experts, parents, psychologists, a priest, and a religious sister, conducted an investigation and found the allegation to be credible and substantiated. How very disconcerting.

The results of the Archdiocese’s investigation have been sent to the Holy See. While Cardinal McCarrick disputes this allegation, he has accepted the decision of the Holy See that he refrain from any public priestly ministry or appearances while the matter is pending.

In a statement issued the same morning the allegation was announced, the Cardinal wrote that while he has “absolutely no recollection” of the reported abuse and believes he is innocent, said, “I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.”

As many of you may know, Cardinal McCarrick served in our diocese from 1982 to 1986. The disturbing allegations against him prompted me to direct that the records of our Diocese be re-examined. As a result I can tell you that there has never been any report or allegation that Cardinal McCarrick ever abused any minor during his time here. Decades after he left Metuchen, however, three allegations were brought forward purporting that he had engaged in sexual improprieties with adults during his time here; two of these resulted in settlements. All were reported to law enforcement at that time.

Personally, this situation has been very disturbing. The abuse of anyone who is vulnerable is both shameful and horrific. The abuse of a minor by a priest – as is being reported in this case from New York – is an abomination and sickens and saddens us all.

My heart is also broken for our faithful, clergy and religious, as we have to face another tragic situation within the Church we love and strive to serve each day. I am grateful that the processes the Church has in place regarding child sexual abuse work. No one is exempt from them, regardless of a person’s rank or status in the Church or the number of years that have passed since an alleged crime occurred.

While gut-wrenching, this situation has made me even more grateful for the substantial work of our training programs, background checks and zero-tolerance policies, which are carefully designed to protect those entrusted to our care and to prevent harm to our children in the future. It is also a time for us to redouble our commitment to protect the most vulnerable among us.

My heart aches, too, for all victims of abuse. I offer my sincere apologies to anyone who has ever been victimized and want you to know that you are always in my prayers. I am also praying that with this situation coming to light, those who have been hurt by abusive actions and have lived with things such as fear, anger or mistrust, can finally begin to allow Christ to heal them through finding justice and love in the Church. I ask anyone who has been abused by any clergy to report it directly to law enforcement and I am urging everyone in our diocese to join with me in praying that the Lord will give all victims of abuse courage, healing and consolation.

Let us pray, too, for all affected by the allegations, which at times seem so prevalent in our world, and place our trust in the redeeming hope of Christ’s merciful love.  Please remember me in your good prayers, too.

The Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen



The following is the Statement of the Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA, regarding an allegation brought forth against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick

June 20, 2018 -- I was very saddened to be advised by the Archbishop of New York that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick -- who served as the Bishop of Metuchen from 1982 to 1986 – is alleged to have sexually abused a minor forty-seven years ago when he was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York. I have also been advised that Cardinal McCarrick himself has disputed this allegation and is appealing this matter through the canonical process.

This very disturbing report has prompted me to direct that the records of our Diocese be re-examined, and I can report to you that there has never been any report or allegation that Cardinal McCarrick ever abused any minor during his time here in Metuchen. In the past, there have been allegations that he engaged in sexual behavior with adults. This Diocese and the Archdiocese of Newark received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements. All were reported to law enforcement at that time.

The abuse of anyone who is vulnerable is both shameful and horrific. The abuse of a minor by a priest – as is being reported in this case from New York – is an abomination and sickens and saddens us all.

The work of building the Kingdom of God in this diocese is much more than its bishops, and I thank you for all of your help here in the Diocese of Metuchen in supporting our common mission. In particular, I am grateful for the substantial work of our training programs, background checks and zero-tolerance policies which are carefully designed both to protect those entrusted to our care and to prevent harm to our children in the future.

I offer my sincere apologies to anyone who has ever been victimized, and I ask anyone who has been abused by any clergy to report it directly to law enforcement. I want all victims to know that they are always in my prayers, and I ask everyone in the Diocese to join with me in praying that the Lord will bring them courage, healing and consolation.