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Opus Dei settled sexual misconduct claim against U.S. priest in 2005

WASHINGTON — Opus Dei, a well-known international Catholic organization, paid $977,000 to settle a sexual misconduct claim in 2005 against a one-time high-profile priest in the nation’s capital.

The payment was made to an adult woman who said Father C. John McCloskey groped her several times while she was undergoing pastoral counseling because of a troubled marriage and serious depression, The Washington Post reported.

The incidents were described as occurring in meetings between Father McCloskey and the unnamed woman at the Catholic Information Center in downtown Washington.

The newspaper stated it does not name the victims of sexual assault without their consent.

Msgr. Thomas Bohlin, U.S. vicar of Opus Dei, wrote in a statement Jan. 7 that the settlement was reached in 2005. He described the priest’s actions as “deeply painful for the woman and we are very sorry for all she suffered.”

Opus Dei learned of the sexual misconduct from the woman in November 2002, according to the statement. Father McCloskey was removed from his role at the center 13 months later after the complaint was found to be credible, Msgr. Bohlin stated.

The woman is now in her mid-50s and was 40 when she met with Father McCloskey. She told The Washington Post that she was pleased by how Opus Dei handled her case.

Msgr. Bohlin said Father McCloskey’s “priestly activities with women have been very limited” since his reassignment from the Catholic Information Center and the restrictions placed upon him. The priest “had very few assignments in our activities for women” and that “his contact with individual women was limited to the confessional,” where priest and penitent are physically separated,” the vicar said.

The organization has separate activities for men and women.

Father McCloskey, who is in his 60s, has been in declining health in recent years, leading to a reduced role with Opus Dei, Msgr. Bohlin said.

Since his removal from Washington, Opus Dei has been “careful to ensure that he would not have any opportunities to engage in the kind of actions that led to the complaint,” the statement said.

The newspaper reported that Father McCloskey had worked for Opus Dei in England, Chicago and California after being dismissed from Washington.

The Opus Dei vicar said the organization recently learned of another woman who may have been victimized by Father McCloskey. “We are in the process of trying to reach out to her,” the statement said.

Opus Dei spokesman Brian Finnerty told Catholic News Service Jan. 8 that the organization recently learned there is a possible third woman who experienced discomfort when she was hugged by Father McCloskey.

In his statement, Msgr. Bohlin wrote, “All harassment and abuse are abhorrent.

“I am painfully aware of all that the Church is suffering, and I am very sorry that we in Opus Dei have added to it. Let us ask God to show mercy on all of us in the Church at this difficult time.”

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