An American Catholic bishop named by Pope Francis to investigate the church’s response to clergy sexual abuse has himself been accused of sexual abuse of an 11-year-old altar boy in the 1970s, according to an attorney for the alleged victim.
The attorney informed Catholic officials in Jersey City, New Jersey, that he is preparing a lawsuit on behalf of a client who says he was molested by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in the mid-1970s, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press, which reported the accusation on Thursday.
In the letter sent Monday to the church’s archdiocese in Newark, New Jersey, attorney Mitchell Garabedian said 56-year-old Mark Matzek alleges he was repeatedly abused by DiMarzio and a second priest, the late Reverend Albert Mark, when he was an altar boy at St. Nicholas Church and a student at St. Nicholas School.
Garabedian told the AP he plans to file the lawsuit on Matzek’s behalf next month, after New Jersey opens a two-year “look back” period in which sex abuse victims will be permitted to file lawsuits without regard to the statute of limitations, which typically limits the amount of time in which an alleged victim may file suit.
DiMarzio, who was a parish priest in Jersey City in the mid-1970s, said there is no truth to the accusation.
“I am just learning about this allegation,” he said in a statement Tuesday to The Associated Press. “In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behavior and I emphatically deny this allegation. I am confident I will be fully vindicated.”
Last month, Pope Francis appointed DiMarzio to investigate the church’s diocese in Buffalo, New York, where Bishop Richard Malone has come under fire for his handling of a growing clergy abuse scandal that has roiled the diocese and prompted calls for his resignation.
“The investigation of the diocese of Buffalo by Bishop DiMarzio is tainted because of these allegations,” Garabedian said in an interview with the AP. “There needs to be a truly neutral investigator to determine whether Bishop Malone should resign,” adding that the investigation should be led by a law enforcement agency.
The Catholic Church is in the midst of a major crisis of confidence in the United States and around the world, with multiple revelations of sexual assault and abuse committed by priests over the course of decades, mostly targeting children
Since the first high-profile abuse allegations against Catholic priests emerged in 2002 in Boston, many similar cases have rocked the Church.
The credibility of the Catholic Church hierarchy sank in 2018 after new reports of old sexual abuse and cover-up were uncovered in the US, Chile and elsewhere and implicated Pope Francis himself.