Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has issued a statement welcoming an investigation into an accusation of sexual abuse made against him last year.
In a statement released to CNA on Sunday, January 19, the Diocese of Brooklyn said that Bishop DiMarzio had done nothing wrong and had no intention of stepping aside during the Vatican-ordered enquiry into the allegation, which dates back to the 1970s and DiMarzio’s time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark.
“Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has categorically denied the allegation against him,” the statement said. “He will vigorously defend himself against this false claim and is confident the truth will prevail.”
On January 18, the Archdiocese of New York confirmed that Cardinal Timothy Dolan had been asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to conduct an investigation into the allegations of 56-year-old Mark Matzek.
Matzek alleges that DiMarzio and another priest, now deceased, repeatedly abused him when he was an altar server at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the Diocese of Newark in the 1970s.
Although lawyer Mitchell Garabedian sent a letter to the Archdiocese of Newark in November saying he was preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Matzek seeking $20 million, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn diocese told CNA on Sunday that no suit had yet been filed.
The investigation is being conducted under the norms of Vos estis lux mundi, the motu proprio issued by Pope Francis in May, 2019, which provided new mechanisms for handling accusations against bishops.
“As the Church investigation is a Vos estis lux mundi probe, it does not require that Bishop DiMarzio step aside during the preliminary investigation,” the statement from the Brooklyn diocese noted. “As such, his status has not changed.
The Diocese of Brooklyn also noted that in the two months since the accusation was made public, DiMarzio had received constant messages of support from Catholics in and out of the diocese.
“There has been a tremendous outpouring of support for Bishop DiMarzio, from here in the Diocese of Brooklyn and from the people he has served throughout his 50-year ministry, including parishioners from his time as parochial vicar at St. Nicholas Church in Jersey City,” the statement said.
The Diocese of Brooklyn also underscored DiMarzio’s reputation as a “recognized as a leader” in combatting sexual abuse in the Church.
“Even before the mandates of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Bishop DiMarzio created protocols when he was the bishop in the Diocese of Camden from 1999-2003 to ensure that children were protected and that victims received the care they need,” a spokesperson for the bishop said.
The statement also noted that DiMarzio’s policies for the Diocese of Brooklyn, issued in 2003, went beyond the requirements of the Dallas Charter agreed by the U.S. bishops, and included an independent hotline for reporting abuse through which complaints are automatically sent to the district attorney.
“His record in fighting sexual abuse is further evident in Pope Francis’ recent selection of him to conduct an investigation into the Diocese of Buffalo,” a spokesperson for the bishop said, referring to the Apostolic Visitation of that diocese conducted by DiMarzio in October and November last year.
DiMarzio is the second U.S. bishop to be investigated under the norms of Vos estis since its promulgation by Pope Francis in May last year.
In September 2019, the Vatican ordered St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda to conduct an investigation using the new laws into Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who is alleged to have knowing kept an abusive priest in ministry. Hebda sent his report to Rome in early November.
While the Archdiocese of New York has not released a timeline for the investigation into DiMarzio, the Diocese of Brooklyn said that the bishop “looks forward to the investigation of the allegation made against him and having his good name cleared and restored.”
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