Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn is rejecting an allegation that he sexually molested a minor in the 1970s, calling it a “false allegation.”
Allegations were reported Wednesday against DiMarzio, who recently concluded an investigation into accusations of cover-up against Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo.
“I am just learning about this allegation,” DiMarzio told the Associated Press. “In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behavior and I categorically deny this allegation.”
The bishop said in a November 13 letter to members of his diocese that he will vigorously fight the allegation and is confident that his name will be cleared.
According to the Associated Press, 56-year-old Mark Matzek says DiMarzio and another priest, who is now deceased, repeatedly abused him when he was an altar server at St Nicholas Catholic Church in the Diocese of Newark. DiMarzio was a priest there at the time.
Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian sent a letter to the Archdiocese of Newark earlier this week notifying them that he is preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Matzek, according to the AP. The suit will ask for $20 million.
The Archdiocese of Newark said it had received the allegations and reported them to law enforcement, in accordance with Church policy for handling abuse accusations, the AP reports.
The state of New Jersey recently passed a law extending the statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims. The window to file a lawsuit under the new legislation will open next month.
DiMarzio said in his letter that sex abuse is a “despicable crime” that he has worked for more than 15 years to eradicate in the diocese. He noted that the diocese has, under his leadership, instituted background checks and sexual abuse awareness training aimed at abuse prevention, as well as a victim assistance ministry and annual healing Mass to help reach out to victims.
DiMarzio recently completed an Apostolic Visitation of the Diocese of Buffalo, which has faced months of scandal surrounding its bishop, Richard Malone, who has been accused of mishandling sex abuse claims against a priest in his diocese.
Leaked documents and recordings from within the diocese appear to show that Malone believed sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before he removed the priest from ministry. Malone has said that he fell short in responding to the allegations, but denies that his actions amounted to a cover-up. He has resisted calls for his resignation.
The visitation, a canonical inspection and fact-finding mission, was ordered by Cardinal Marc Ouellet of the Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops.
DiMarzio made three trips to Buffalo for the visitation, interviewing nearly 90 people. On October 31, the Diocese of Brooklyn announced that the visitation had been completed.
Garabedien, the attorney preparing the lawsuit, told the AP that the allegation against the DiMarzio taints his investigation into Bishop Malone, and said law enforcement should carry out a new investigation in Buffalo.
Adriana Rodriguez, press secretary for the Brooklyn diocese, told CNA Nov. 13 that the visitation report had been submitted to Rome the previous week.