It was revealed yesterday that Opus Dei, a Catholic organization formerly known as The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, paid $977,000 in 2005 to settle a sexual misconduct case against a popular Washington D.C. priest.
Father C. John McCloskey was a popular figure within the Catholic community in Washington. He converted some big-name conservatives to the Catholic faith, like Newt Gingrich, Lawrence Kudlow, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, and Sam Brownback.
The woman who received the settlement was seeing McCloskey for spiritual guidance relating to depression and problems with her marriage. While visiting with McCloskey at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, McCloskey groped the woman several times. The Catholic Information Center serves as a bookstore, chapel and gathering place for conservative Catholics.
According to what she told the Washington Post, the guilt and shame she felt over the groping incidents made her existing depression much worse. She was no longer able to work because of the “misperceived guilt over the interaction.”
She confessed all this to McCloskey, who absolved her. Convenient.
The woman (who is unnamed in the report because she is a victim of sexual abuse) told reporters, “I love Opus Dei but I was caught up in this cover-up — I went to confession, thinking I did something to tempt this holy man to cross boundaries.”
The revelation of the settlement sheds light on a mystery that had left many area Catholics guessing. One year after the woman’s complaint, McCloskey was removed from the ministry and sent to England. He was later moved to Chicago and then California on assignments for Opus Dei.
Brian Finnerty, an Opus Dei spokesman, commenting on the situation revealed that one other woman also complained about McCloskey. “She was made uncomfortable by how he was hugging her,” Finnerty said. Finnerty also revealed that Opus Dei is currently investigating the claims of a third woman, but that the claims had not yet been substantiated. Finnerty remarked that the claim was potentially very serious, but he did not provide further details.
The woman who received the settlement requested that Opus Dei publicly reveal this information so that other victims could be reached. She said that church officials told her when McCloskey was moved to Chicago that he would not be allowed to act as a fully functioning priest.
The woman became concerned when she spoke with someone recently who thought that McCloskey had been serving as a priest in California.
In their statement yesterday, Opus Dei said that McCloskey had recently moved back to the Washington D.C. area where has family. They said that he “suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. He is largely incapacitated and needs assistance for routine daily tasks. He has not had any pastoral assignments for a number of years and is no longer able to celebrate Mass, even privately.”
Hopefully now that the issue has become public, and McCloskey is physically unable to serve as a priest, the woman who filed the complaint can move on. While speaking to the Washington Post she said, “I’m very happy with how it’s being handled right now. They listened."
It seems they only listened when they had no choice, but sure, good to know that she is happy.