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A Newark archbishop sexually abused a 5-year-old girl in the 1970s, after gaining her hungry family’s trust by bringing them food, a new lawsuit claims.
The March litigation is believed to be the first abuse accusation against Peter Gerety, who died in 2016 at the age of 104, making him the world’s oldest Catholic bishop.
The plaintiff, who is now in her 40s, said Gerety flattered her as “such a smart and pretty young girl,” before sexually abusing her in the church rectory on at least three or four occasions, the lawsuit alleges.
The plaintiff said she told her sister of the attacks when she was a teenager, and still takes drugs to treat anxiety and depression stemming from the sex crimes, the affidavit said.
“I have suffered from extreme difficulty navigating intimate relationships, and I continue to experience bouts of anger, as well as difficulties when involved in relationships and attempting to be intimate in the context of these relationships,” she wrote.
Church leaders did not comment on the litigation but a spokesperson said the Newark archdiocese was committed to resolving allegations and bringing closure to victims.
In 2019, New Jersey Catholic officials released the names of almost 200 priests accused of abusing children, including another former Newark archbishop, Theodore McCarrick.
The latest lawsuit seeks $50 million, plus additional unspecified damages against the late bishop’s estate, the church, and other unnamed people and groups.
“This case is indicative of how systemic and pervasive the sexual abuse of children was, and remains to this day, in the Catholic church,” said John Baldante, the plaintiff’s lawyer.
The church has paid more than $3 billion to settle abuse lawsuits.
With AP wires
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