Catholic organisation Opus Dei paid nearly a million dollars in 2005 to settle a sexual misconduct claim against a prominent American priest, Father John McCloskey.
The £977,000 settlement was made public yesterday (7 January). In a statement, Opus Dei Vicar Monsignor Thomas Bohlin said they received a complaint of sexual misconduct against Rev. C. John McCloskey in 2002 from a woman who was receiving counselling at the Catholic Information Centre in Washington DC.
Bohlin said McCloskey, who was known for preparing high profile figures - including US politician Newt Gingrich - for conversion, was removed from his job in 2003 following an investigation.
He said McCloskey’s actions were “deeply painful for the woman” and apologised for “all she suffered”.
“All harassment and abuse are abhorrent,” Bohlin said. “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. Let us ask God to show mercy on all of us in the Church at this difficult time.”
The woman, who has not been named, told the Washington Post that McCloskey groped her several times while she was attending pastoral counselling for depression and problems in her marriage.
Following the complaints, McCloskey was sent to England, and then Chicago and California for assignments with Opus Dei.
The woman in the settlement told the Washington Post became worried last year when she came into contact with another person who knew about McCloskey and heard he may have been working as a priest in California.
She subsequently requested Opus Dei make her case public in the hope of reaching other victims of McCloskey.
An Opus Dei spokesman told the Washington Post on 7 January that one other woman has made accusations against the priest. He said Opus Dei is also investigating a third “serious” claim, which is so far unsubstantiated.
McCloskey, who is now in his 60s, has moved back to the Washington DC and suffers from advanced Alzheimers, Opus Dei said.
“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,” they confirmed.