Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio “repeatedly sexually abused” Samier Tadros starting when he was about 6 years old, according to a March 9 letter that Tadros' lawyer sent to the attorney representing the Archdiocese of Newark. The letter alleges the abuse happened in Holy Rosary Church in Jersey City.
DiMarzio has previously denied the accusations made by the first accuser. In a statement to The Associated Press, he also denied the accusation leveled by Tadros. “There is absolutely no truth to this allegation,” he said. “This is clearly another attempt to destroy my name and discredit what I have accomplished in my service to God and His people.”
Joseph Hayden, DiMarzio's attorney, said in an email to the AP, “We have uncovered conclusive evidence of Bishop DiMarzio's innocence.” Hayden declined to share the evidence with the AP. DiMarzio's case has drawn interest because it is among the first conducted according to procedures Pope Francis issued under a new church law that went into effect last June.
The procedures — known in Latin as Vos Estis Lux Mundi, or You are the Light of the World — were issued in an apostolic letter that addresses how the church will handle claims against bishops and other ranking church officials accused of abuse or covering it up. The rules direct archbishops to lead the investigation of an accused bishop in his jurisdiction. In this case the archbishop of New York is Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney for both of DiMarzio's accusers, told the AP that Tadros stepped forward after hearing from a family member that another man, 57-year-old Mark Matzek, had accused DiMarzio. Matzek also accused the late Rev. Albert Mark of sexually abusing him in the mid-1970s, when both priests were assigned to St. Nicholas Church, also in Jersey City.
The two men live in different states, Garabedian said, and have never met. “We have two separate, discreet claims,” he said. Tadros, now 46, has demanded $20 million in compensation. Hayden said, “Bishop DiMarzio will never agree to a settlement of these claims.”
Last November, the AP reported that Garabedian planned to file suit on Matzek's behalf in New Jersey. But he said he put the plan on hold after the Archdiocese of New York asked whether Matzek would cooperate with Dolan’s investigation. Garabedian said both men, as well as a family member of Tadros, are prepared to answer questions from Dolan’s investigators.
Dolan has retained New York attorney John O’Donnell and the law firm of Herbert Smith Freehills to conduct the investigation. The firm in turn has hired a risk management company founded by former FBI director Louis Freeh to assist in the inquiry. Freeh was named in 2011 to lead an investigation into Pennsylvania State University and its handling of sex abuse claims against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, which led to a report critical of university officials.
Under the church's new procedures, O'Donnell said, Dolan’s investigation will be submitted to the Vatican, which will review the evidence and make a recommendation to Pope Francis. Although Dolan will not personally conduct the investigation, he is to submit the investigation along with his “votum," or vote, according to the new procedures.
Another provision says that the archbishop "is required to act impartially and free of conflicts of interest.” But Garabedian and advocates for clergy abuse survivors have questioned Dolan's ability to remain neutral, citing comments he made during a Jan. 21 episode of his weekly “Conversation with Cardinal Dolan” podcast.
“Bishop DiMarzio, I mean, I love the guy. He’s a good friend," Dolan said. "He’s never had an accusation against him in his whole life. But in November, somebody made an accusation from way, way, way, way, way, way back, 48 years or so ago. And as much as Bishop DiMarzio said, ‘This is preposterous, this is ridiculous, this is unjust,’ darn it, we have to take it seriously.”
Garabedian said Dolan’s neutrality also is undermined by a decision to allow DiMarzio to remain in office during the investigation. In other instances of alleged clergy sexual abuse, some priests have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of a review of the accusations against them.
“It’s very difficult for my clients to believe Cardinal Dolan could be neutral in this matter, after the public statement Cardinal Dolan made about his good friend Bishop DiMarzio,” Garabedian said. Nicholas Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former chair of the U.S. bishops' National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People, said he believes that because Dolan has retained outside professionals to conduct the investigation, impartiality is assured.
"The fact that it’s going to be based on what the professionals find means the requirement for impartiality has been met,” he said. And O’Donnell, the attorney retained to conduct Dolan’s investigation, noted in an email that “while Cardinal Dolan is to oversee the investigation, he is not the one to adjudicate the matter.”
In addition, O’Donnell said that because DiMarzio is a bishop, the decision to allow him to remain in office, or place him on administrative leave, rests with the Pope. Earlier this year, the National Catholic Reporter, an independent Catholic newspaper, faulted the Vos Estis procedures for establishing a system of “bishops investigating fellow bishops.” The newspaper suggested that the new law be amended to require that accused bishops are investigated by archbishops from other parts of the country.
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a group that catalogs information about clergy sex abuse, said Dolan’s remarks and the decision to allow DiMarzio to remain in office during the investigation send a discouraging message to abuse survivors.
“How can Cardinal Dolan expect that any witnesses or whistleblowers will want to come forward under these conditions?" she said.
AP investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report.
Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org.