WINDSOR TERRACE — Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is denying claims in a lawsuit that he sexually abused an altar boy in a New Jersey church in the 1970s.
The accuser, Mark Matzek, 57, who is represented by attorney Mitchell Garabedian, filed in Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County, on March 9. Matzek first went public with his accusations against Bishop DiMarzio in November of 2019.
In a statement, Bishop DiMarzio said, “These false accusations are an attempt to smear my 50-year ministry as a priest. This lawsuit contains the same false allegations made 16 months ago with a demand for $20 million. There is no merit to any of these claims. The priesthood has been my life. I have faith in the Lord that truth will prevail.”
Joseph A. Hayden, Jr., the lawyer representing Bishop DiMarzio, said his client would never settle the case “because he is innocent and looks forward to a trial before a jury of his peers.”
“Bishop DiMarzio volunteered to take and has passed a lie detector test with respect to this allegation and his categorical denial of the claim was found to be truthful by an independent retired law-enforcement polygrapher of national stature,” Hayden said.
In regard to passing the lie detector test, Bishop DiMarzio said, “my conscience is clear.”
Last month, Samier Tadros, 47, another man represented by Garabedian, filed suit against Bishop DiMarzio, accusing him of sexual abuse in the late 1970s at a different New Jersey church.
Garabedian, the lawyer for both accusers, says he represents dozens of other plaintiffs claiming to have been sexually abused by priests in New Jersey. He has filed numerous lawsuits in several jurisdictions over the years.
When Garabedian announced Matzek’s claim in November of 2019, Bishop DiMarzio had just finished conducting an apostolic visitation to the Diocese of Buffalo to look into claims of mismanagement. Garabedian, who was representing several clients against the diocese there, claimed Bishop DiMarzio’s investigation was tainted because he himself was now accused. Garabedian, at that time, announced that Matzek’s lawsuit would be filed, in a matter of weeks, under a new New Jersey law that lifts the statute of limitations for sex abuse civil lawsuits. It’s not clear why that lawsuit, however, was not filed until this week.
Matzek served as an altar boy at St. Nicholas Church in Jersey City from 1973 to 1976. He alleges in the suit that Bishop DiMarzio and another priest, Father Albert Mark, repeatedly sexually abused him. Father Mark died in 1996.
St. Nicholas Church is located in the Archdiocese of Newark. The parish and the archdiocese are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Samier Tadros, the second accuser, filed his lawsuit in February claiming Bishop DiMarzio abused him from around 1978 to 1980 when he was a boy receiving one-to-one religious instruction from the bishop, who was then a priest living at Holy Rosary Church. The bishop denied the allegation.
“The accuser did not attend the parish or the parish school and does not appear to have been Catholic,” Bishop DiMarzio said.
He further stated, “Anyone with a minimal understanding of parish life knows that it stretches the imagination to think a priest would be providing private catechism lessons to a non-Catholic six or seven-year-old on a one-to-one basis.”
Under new Vatican procedures for bishop accountability, known as Vos Estis Lux Mundi, any allegation of abuse against a bishop must be investigated. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in his capacity as the metropolitan Archbishop of New York, which oversees the other dioceses within the province, conducted a canonical investigation into Bishop DiMarzio.
When the investigation was announced, Cardinal Dolan said outside investigators would be responsible for reviewing the allegations. The Archdiocese of New York retained New York attorney John O’Donnell and the law firm of Herbert Smith Freehills to conduct the investigation. The law firm hired former FBI director Louis Freeh to conduct the third-party investigation.
The results have been sent to the Vatican, which has yet to release its findings.