A sitting priest is one of four defendants behind a new federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of New Jersey against the Vatican for sexual abuse by defrocked former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

The 85-page complaint details alleged sexual molestation and exploitation by McCarrick of both minors and adults while he served as the bishop of Metuchen and as archbishop of Newark.

The lawsuit comes days after the Vatican published a report on an investigation into McCarrick, which found that, for decades, leaders within the Catholic Church dismissed or downplayed allegations of sexual crimes that were later confirmed in 2019 by the Holy See.

"This lawsuit is really designed to target .... the source of the problem, and what has been described as a crisis of clergy sexual abuse in American and globally," attorney Jeff Anderson said during a virtual press conference.

Three popes, 33 cardinals and hundreds of bishops are implicated in the suit, which is an attempt to force transparency and truth long-hidden, Anderson said.

Two of the four male defendants still reside in New Jersey, including a priest. The priest, identified as JA Doe 53, alleges McCarrick (serving at the time as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark) invited him to his beach house in Sea Girt in the early 1990s. According to the complaint, McCarrick required that they share a bed and he sexually exploited JA Doe 53, an adult at the time.

The complaint alleges that two additional instances of sexual exploitation by McCarrick of JA Doe 53 occurred during the same year in New York City.

The complaint notes the priest disclosed the abuse to a bishop but he was advised to dismiss the incident and forgive McCarrick "for the good of the church."

"It is the first time a sitting cleric, an actual priest, has sued the Vatican," Anderson said.

Anderson would not say where JA Doe 53 currently serves as priest.

JA Doe 50, a current resident of Florida, alleges that McCarrick sexually molested him in New Jersey when he was about 14 to 16 years old. JA Doe 51 was about 14 years old when McCarrick initiated inappropriate conduct, according to the complaint. At around age 19, JA Doe 52 was sexually exploited by McCarrick in New Jersey, New York and overseas, according to the complaint.

The complaint insists the Vatican continued to let McCarrick advance in the Church and work with children despite adequate knowledge of McCarrick's shady history.

"There are children today who are in imminent danger of abuse because Defendant Holy See has failed to report or release the names of agents that have either been convicted or credibly accused of molesting children, or that Defendant Holy See itself has found guilty of abuse," the complaint reads.

Because the Diocese of Metuchen had not been served with the lawsuit on Thursday, spokespeople declined to comment for this story.

The Archdiocese of Newark also declined comment on the specific allegations.

"It would be inappropriate to discuss or comment on matters in litigation but it’s important to note that the Archdiocese of Newark remains fully committed to transparency and to our long-standing programs to protect the faithful and will continue to work with victims, their legal representatives and law enforcement authorities in an ongoing effort to resolve allegations and bring closure to victims," said Maria Margiotta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese.

An attorney for McCarrick would not comment.

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