Fr. Michael J. McCarthy – Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Father Michael McCarthy

Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Fr. Michael McCarthy Horowitz Law     Fr. Michael McCarthy Horowitz Law

Ordained: 1965

Suspension from ministry: 1993

Inpatient treatment: 1993, 1993-1994

Leave of Absence: 1993-2003

Retired: 2003

Laicized (removed from priesthood): 2006

Assigned as follows:

  • 1965-1989 Cardinal O’Hara High School (Springfield, PA)
  • 1965-1975 St. Bernadette (Drexel Hill, PA)
  • 1975-1989 St. Francis of Assisi (Springfield, PA)
  • 1989-1992 St. Kevin (Springfield, PA)
  • 1992-1993 Epiphany (Norristown, PA)

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father Michael McCarthy:

The case of Father Michael McCarthy was examined in greater detail by the 2005 grand jury during its investigation into the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  According to the documents it reviewed, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua promoted McCarthy to a pastorate at Epiphany parish mere months after being personally informed of sexual abuse allegations involving McCarthy.  Former Secretary for Clergy Msgr. William Lynn also attempted to convince experts at St. Luke Institute, a notorious treatment facility for pedophile priests in Suitland, Maryland, to change their diagnosis of McCarthy as an ephebophile – someone who is sexually attracted to adolescents – so that he could return to ministry.  

  • THE 1986 ALLEGATION THAT WENT IGNORED

According to the grand jury report, in September 1986, a mother reported to the principal at Cardinal O’Hara High School that McCarthy sexually abused her son by touching his back and bare buttocks in a sexual manner.  The principal, Father Philip Cribben, reportedly told her that he had heard rumors about McCarthy being inappropriate with boys but felt “powerless” to do anything until she came forward with an actual allegation. When confronted with the allegation, McCarthy denied it and threatened to hire a lawyer if the matter was pursued. The principal refused to transfer the boy out of McCarthy’s class.

A decision was made by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office of Education to transfer the child out of McCarthy’s class but, in conjunction with Msgr. David Walls – himself an accused abuser – it was decided that the boy would be transferred from two classes “so that it could be said that the change was for academic reasons.”

McCarthy remained at the high school for another three years, before being named acting pastor (administrator) of St. Kevin – a promotion.

  • THE 1991 ALLEGATION THAT WENT IGNORED

In 1991, a second complaint was made about McCarthy.  A man contacted the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and reported that he was sexually abused by McCarthy, who was his biology teacher at Cardinal O’Hara High School, from 1974-1975.  Under the guise of giving the boy private tutoring to improve his test scores, McCarthy struck up a personal relationship with the boy that eventually led to dinners and trips to McCarthy’s house on the Jersey Shore.  At the shore house, McCarthy got the boy drunk and made him share a bed. He would then engage the boy in mutual fondling, and even told the boy that he engaged in sexual activity with other students. The man told the Archdiocese of Philadelphia the names of several boys he knew had gone to the Shore house and others he suspected may have been abused.  The Archdiocese of Philadelphia did nothing to locate the men or to investigate these leads any further. A handwritten note on a memo of notes from the meeting with the man says, “never admit to victim that there have been other cases.” We note that the note says “cases” – plural – and not “case,” so the Archdiocese was aware of others abused by McCarthy beyond the one allegation in 1986.

When confronted, McCarthy again denied the allegation and signed an affidavit that, to “the best of my recollection the incident alleged by [the man] never took place.” A handwritten note indicates that McCarthy seemed “suspicious” during his denial.

  • BEVILACQUA THINKS HE IS SMARTER THAN THERAPISTS AND PROMOTES MCCARTHY TO A PASTORATE WHERE OTHER PRIESTS COMPLAIN

McCarthy remained in ministry and received a formal pastorate at Epiphany seven months after the second allegation was made.  Notably, correspondence in McCarthy’s file indicates multiple discussions with the Cardinal and other Archdiocese of Philadelphia officials that the promotion to Epiphany, rather than at St. Kevin, was to avoid drawing attention and publicity to McCarthy.  At Epiphany, the victim was less likely to discover he had been promoted and feel driven to pursue his allegations than he might be at St. Kevin. McCarthy accepted the new pastorate, but set out a list of demands for his future assignments, having been assured that sexually abusing children had no effect on his career trajectory.

There is also a reference to Cardinal Bevilacqua reviewing a sealed psychological exam report in McCarthy’s file.  The context suggests it was reviewed before the Epiphany assignment in June 1992. What is clear, however, is that Chancery officials “did not agree with the evaluation [McCarthy] received.”  The report itself was not provided to the grand jury.

Within a few months, a fellow priest met with Msgr. Lynn to relay concerns about the new Epiphany pastor.  According to documents from the meeting, the priest reported that McCarthy was very open about frequently gay bars, and made constant sexual innuendos and jokes. Another priest had expressed similar concerns to the priest, who also referred to earlier conversations with Lynn’s assistant.  Lynn dismissed the complaints as “innuendo…for which there was no proof.” There is no indication there was ever any investigation to determine what proof existed. A few months later, the priest met with Lynn again and asked for a transfer. He was frustrated with McCarthy, and said that the pastor had a poster of a nude man in his bedroom and also kept large amounts of pornography in the rectory.  

McCarthy remained in ministry and nothing was done.

  • A BIG DONATION CHECK FINALLY GETS BEVILACQUA’S ATTENTION

Then, a woman wrote to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in April 1993 with something that caught the Cardinal’s attention.  The woman reminded Cardinal Bevilacqua that her husband had recently written a $25,000.00 check to Catholic Life Renewal, in case he forgot her, and she had some concerns about McCarthy.  Apparently, she owned a travel agency and McCarthy had become one himself. She was now losing all of the parish business and was upset that her donations went to fund what had become her competitor.  Within one week, Cardinal Bevilacqua had determined that the matter was “a high priority” and ordered an immediate investigation by Lynn.

During the investigation, witnesses provided information far beyond McCarthy’s work as a travel agent.  For example, the Vicar for Montgomery County shared that, among other things, he had received five or six complaints relating to “harsh treatment” of altar boys and children in the confessional.  Another Epiphany priest told Lynn that the pastor was often drinking, dressed immodestly, and had underwear catalogs and pornography all over the rectory, which corroborated the earlier reports. He also affirmed the Vicar’s statements about McCarthy’s treatment of children, saying that they all seemed to be afraid of McCarthy.  Lynn personally inspected McCarthy’s room in the rectory and found the pornography, just as the other priests said. All of it seemed to be of a homosexual nature, and Lynn also found information on “gay vacation spots in the Northeast.”

The information was all forwarded to the Cardinal, who asked McCarthy to resign his pastorate and ministry in May 1993 “as the result of the discovery of improper material in the possession of Fr. McCarthy,” referring to the gay pornography Lynn found.  Bevilacqua wrote, “…the implications of the material found were that Fr. McCarthy was a homosexual.” So it was the mere appearance of homosexuality that caused Bevilacqua to ask for McCarthy’s resignation, not multiple complaints of sexually abusing children.  

Less than six weeks after the donor wrote her letter, McCarthy tendered his resignation and was put on “health leave.”  McCarthy originally reported to Villa St. John Vianney, another notorious pedophile priest treatment facility and owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but he eventually transferred to St. Luke Institute.  He was diagnosed with “homosexual ephebophilia,” meaning that he was sexually attracted to adolescent boys. He was also noted to be a defensive patient who made slow progress in his treatment. Therapists told Bevilacqua and Lynn at the time of his discharge, “there is still more that has not yet been revealed and do not think we should risk having Fr. McCarthy in any assignment” for at least three years.

McCarthy moved to his shore house and worked at a casino while completing the St. Luke’s aftercare program. His faculties remained restricted – he could still celebrate mass, just not publicly.  

  • MORE ALLEGATIONS IN 1996

In 1996, Lynn wrote to staff at St. Luke’s that there had been new accusations (plural) brought against McCarthy relating to sexual abuse that occurred around 1990.  Lynn provided no details, except to refer to “allegations” and “complainants” in the plural form.

  • THE ARCHDIOCESE TRIES TO MANIPULATE MCCARTHY’S EPHEBOPHILE DIAGNOSIS SO THAT MCCARTHY CAN RETURN TO MINISTRY IN 1998

In 1998, after the pastor at St. Kevin’s died, McCarthy asked to be appointed as his replacement.  Lynn asked McCarthy to arrange for his current therapist to write a letter addressing the St. Luke’s diagnosis so that he could “revisit” the diagnosis with the Director of St. Luke’s.   

Lynn spoke with the Director, questioning the competence of McCarthy’s therapy team and placing great weight on the fact that McCarthy disputed the diagnosis despite having admitted to a sexual attraction to pubescent boys and sharing a bed with them naked.  St. Luke’s stood by its diagnosis, which meant that, under the policies of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, McCarthy could never return to ministry.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia never sent any more priests to St. Luke’s after that, and no other priests ever received a diagnosis barring them from ministry again.  Instead, the Archdiocese continued to use St. John Vianney, the facility it owned and which had only antiquated means of diagnosing sexual disorders.

  • MCCARTHY RETIRED VOLUNTARILY AND NOW LIVES QUIETLY IN NEW JERSEY

McCarthy remained on a leave of absence with limited faculties until he retired voluntarily in 2003.  He had no supervision during the period of his 10 year leave of absence.

McCarthy is still living and is believed to be residing in his shore home in Margate, New Jersey.  He is 81 years old.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Philadelphia now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims.  Contact us at (954) 641-2100 or adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com today.