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Catholic group paid almost $1 million to settle sexual misconduct suit against famous reverend

The decade-old suit against the reverend who converted Newt Gingrich only became public now

by Carter Sherman
Jan 8 2019, 4:56pm

The Catholic community Opus Dei paid nearly $1 million to settle a sexual misconduct suit brought against the prominent Rev. C. John McCloskey, the Washington Post reported Monday Monday. McCloskey, the former head of the Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., famously helped ready conservative figures like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for conversion to Catholicism.

But more than a decade ago, Opus Dei paid $977,000 to a woman in D.C., who filed a complaint alleging that McCloskey groped her multiple times when he counseled her about her serious depression and marital strife, the Post reported. The complaint was first filed in 2002 and settled in 2005, but it did not become public until Monday, when Opus Dei Vicar Monsignor Thomas Bohlin revealed its existence in a statement.

“I love Opus Dei, but I was caught up in this coverup — I went to confession, thinking I did something to tempt this holy man to cross boundaries,” the woman told the Post, which did not name the woman. Between her shame over the misconduct and her depression, the woman was not able to work in what the Post described as a “high-level job.”

Brian Finnerty, an Opus Dei spokesperson, told the Post that the sexual misconduct settlement is the only one Opus Dei has ever paid out in the United States. About 85,000 people belong to Opus Dei worldwide, according to the BBC.

Another woman did report to Opus Dei that “she was made uncomfortable by how he [McCloskey] was hugging her,” Finnerty said. In his statement, Bohlin added that Opus Dei recently became “aware of another woman who may have also suffered from Father McCloskey’s actions.”

READ: The Church is facing an unprecedented wave of sex abuse investigations

“I am painfully aware of all that the Church is suffering, and I am very sorry that we in Opus Dei have added to it,” Bohlin said. “Let us ask God to show mercy on all of us in the Church at this difficult time.”

McCloskey was removed from his post as the director of the Catholic Information Center in late 2003, Bohlin said. He was instructed to only provide women with spiritual guidance in a traditional confessional, as is standard within the traditional Catholic teachings of Opus Dei.

While McCloskey has not publicly responded to the allegations, Bohlin said that the priest is “largely incapacitated” thanks to advanced Alzheimer’s.

Cover: In this Sunday, April 22, 2018 file photo, priests pray during a ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. The umbrella organization of Catholic religious orders in the U.S. is suggesting its members consider voluntarily identifying priests accused of sexual abuse, opening up what could be a major new chapter in the Catholic Church's long-running abuse and cover-up saga, The Associated Press has learned. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)