Vatican exonerates Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of sexual abuse

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. (AP File Photo)

The Vatican has concluded that allegations of sexual abuse dating back a half-century against the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn do "not have the semblance of truth," but an attorney for the accusers said they will continue to pursue their civil cases.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, said Wednesday that the Vatican has closed its investigation into allegations made separately by two men, who accused Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of abusing them a half-century ago when he was a priest in New Jersey. 

DiMarzio denied the accusations made by his accusers, both of whom have filed civil claims against the bishop.

"I repeat what I have said from the beginning. There is no truth to these allegations. Throughout my more than 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never abused anyone," DiMarzio said in a statement. He said he "fully cooperated" with the investigation.

"I remain focused on leading the Diocese of Brooklyn as we are emerging from the darkness of the Coronavirus pandemic," he said. "I ask for your prayers as I continue to fight against the lawsuits stemming from these two allegations, and as I now look forward to clearing my name in the New Jersey state courts."

The Vatican's handling of the case was being closely watched because it was among the first to come under new procedures put in place two years ago by Pope Francis to address allegations of sexual abuse against some of the church's highest-ranking clergy

Critics, including the lawyer for his accusers, expressed concern that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, comprised of other bishops, would lack impartiality. 

"The investigations concerning the credibility of my clients were subjective and biased because the investigators were controlled by and paid for by the Catholic Church," said the men's attorney, Mitchell Garabedian.

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"The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which rendered the decision, is in the business of continuing the secrecy of clergy sexual abuse by hiding the truth," Garabedian asserted.

One of his accusers, Samier Tadros, said the abuse began when he was 6 years old and a parishioner at Holy Rosary Church in Jersey City. Tadros has demanded $20 million in compensation.

The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual abuse unless they come forward publicly, as Tadros has done.

In response to the allegations, Dolan hired a law firm to conduct an investigation. That inquiry was led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

The findings were then forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for its review, which determined that the accusations were baseless.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, more commonly known as SNAP, said it was not surprised by the Vatican's actions and urged New York Attorney General Letitia James to conduct its own investigation.

"Given Bishop DiMarzio's high rank in the Catholic Church — and especially given the fact that he had been tapped by Vatican leaders to investigate other prelates accused of wrongdoing — we believe true transparency and accountability will need to come from secular officials in New York and New Jersey, not Rome," SNAP said in a statement.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn's territory includes Brooklyn and Queens