By Christopher White, National Correspondent
MANHATTAN — Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is strongly denying a second allegation by attorney Mitchell Garabedian that he abused a minor during his early ministry as a priest and says he is considering filing a defamation lawsuit against Garabedian, whom he says continues to pursue false allegations against him.
“There is absolutely no truth to this allegation. I deny this outrageous and libelous claim,” he said in a statement in response to an Associated Press article on June 4.
The article claims that Samier Tadros, now 46 years old, was “repeatedly sexually abused” by Bishop DiMarzio at Holy Rosary Church in Jersey City, beginning when Tadros was about six years old.
“This is clearly another attempt to destroy my name and discredit what I have accomplished in my service to God and His people, including my efforts to fight the scourge of sexual abuse,” said Bishop DiMarzio’s statement. “I have retained counsel and am contemplating filing a lawsuit against those responsible for these accusations, which have no basis in fact. I am ready, willing, and able to go to trial to defend myself.”
Garabedian said he received a letter from Tadros on March 9, detailing his accusations against Bishop DiMarzio after Tadros heard of the previous claim brought forth by Garabedian.
The initial allegation against Bishop DiMarzio was first reported on Nov. 13 by the Associated Press.
In the report, Garabedian alleged that Bishop DiMarzio repeatedly abused an altar boy, now 57-year-old Mark Matzek, at St. Nicholas Parish in Jersey City, N.J., in the 1970s, and in a letter to the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., he said he intended to file a lawsuit in December, when New Jersey’s look-back window for cases that had passed the statute of limitations opened. The alleged victim also claims he was abused by a second priest, the late Father Albert Mark.
The first allegation against Bishop DiMarzio came last fall at the time when Bishop DiMarzio had been selected by Pope Francis to conduct an apostolic visitation to the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., to investigate allegations that Bishop Richard Malone mishandled sexual abuse cases.
Seven months later, however, Garabedian has yet to bring a lawsuit against Bishop DiMarzio, preventing him the opportunity to formally defend himself against the allegations.
“Both allegations against my client are more than 40 years old, and the accusers are each seeking 20-million dollars from the Newark Archdiocese,” said attorney Joseph Hayden who is representing Bishop DiMarzio.
“We have been investigating these claims and we have uncovered conclusive evidence of Bishop DiMarzio’s innocence. We look forward to challenging these allegations in court or in any other proceeding,” he said.
In addition to the civil allegations against Bishop DiMarzio, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in his capacity as the metropolitan Archbishop of New York, which oversees the other dioceses within the province, is conducting a canonical investigation into Bishop DiMarzio, as is protocol under the new Vatican procedures for bishop accountability, known as Vos Estis Lux Mundi.
Cardinal Dolan has said outside investigators will be responsible for reviewing the allegations. In turn, the Archdiocese of New York has retained New York attorney John O’Donnell and the law firm of Herbert Smith Freehills to conduct the investigation. As The Tablet has previously reported, the firm has hired former FBI director Louis Freeh to conduct the third-party investigation.
While Garabedian has criticized Cardinal Dolan’s decision not to force Bishop DiMarzio to step aside during the investigation, the Vos Estis norms do not require it.
Garabedian is presently facing potential defamation charges in another case in Pennsylvania following a ruling last month from a U.S. District judge that the attorney never intended to bring charges against a teacher his client accused of sexual abuse. That teacher maintains his innocence and despite multiple threats, Garabedian has yet to file suit after making public claims that he intended to do so, which the teacher claims have brought irreparable harm to his reputation.
In addition, this past April, the Archdiocese of Boston reinstated Father Peter Gori, the pastor of St. Augustine’s Church in Andover, Mass., after Garabedian withdrew a lawsuit against him that claimed he sexually abused a minor 30 years ago after an independent review found the allegation to be unsubstantiated.
Garabedian has claimed that he has postponed plans to bring formal suit against Bishop DiMarzio due to a request from the Archdiocese of New York for Matzek to cooperate with their independent investigation. He maintains that both Matzek and Tadros and his family are willing to cooperate with investigators.
Hayden, however, warns that Bishop DiMarzio will not be pressured into a settlement.
“These 40-year-old allegations in pursuit of two 20-million-dollar legal claims are simply untrue and Bishop DiMarzio will never agree to a settlement of these claims,” he said.