A New Jersey judge ruled Thursday that the Archdiocese of Newark be held financially responsible for abuse claims against a high-ranking Catholic leader, The Post has learned.
The ruling involves accusations that disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick assaulted a boy in the 1980s — and it could pave the way for victims to get bigger civil court payouts.
In the precedent-setting ruling, District Court Judge Madeline Arleo found that the wealthy institution is “vicariously liable” — responsible simply for employing McCarrick, without necessarily committing any wrongdoing.
“This is huge,” said lawyer Kevin Mulhearn, who is representing the anonymous accuser, known as John Doe.
“It marks the first time in the US that a court has determined that a diocese may be held accountable for the intentional acts of its bishop, without necessarily finding that the diocese itself was negligent.”
John Doe claims McCarrick, 91, began molesting him at a beach house in Sea Girt, NJ, in 1985, when he was 12 years old, according to court documents. The then-bishop allegedly continued to sexually abuse and rape him more than 50 times, including on weekend trips to the Catskills.
The defense had tried to argue that the diocese shouldn’t be held liable for the alleged abuse because the victim — New Yorker who grew up in a Catholic family — had known McCarrick before he took the job, insisting the bishop was “acting outside the scope of his employment.”
But Arleo shot down the claim that the diocese “isn’t liable for the criminal acts of their employees.”
“[McCarrick] was aided in accomplishing his intentional torts of sexual battery … by the existence of the agency relationship,” she wrote, noting the diocese is indeed liable.
“Despite alleged knowledge of McCarrick’s history of sexual abuse of young men, the diocese appointed McCarrick as bishop in 1981,” Arleo added. “McCormick used his position at the church to carry out assaults during his tenure.”
McCarrick — who was expelled from the priesthood for sexual abuse in 2019 — has been accused by at least 10 other victims, including several who claimed in lawsuit last year that he ran a sex abuse ring out of the Sea Girt beach house.
A jury will likely determine next year whether they believe McCarrick committed the abuse against Doe.
McCarrick, who also served as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York in 1977, pleaded not guilty earlier this month to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy during a wedding reception in Massachusetts in the 1970s.
The Archdiocese of Newark didn’t immediately return a request for comment.