Opus Dei Paid Almost $1 Million To Settle Sexual Misconduct Suit Against Popular Priest

A woman alleged the Rev. C. John McCloskey groped her repeatedly during Washington counseling sessions.
Opus Dei Rev. C John McCloskey pictured in 2002.
Opus Dei Rev. C John McCloskey pictured in 2002.

Global Catholic organization Opus Dei revealed this week that it had paid almost $1 million to settle a sexual misconduct suit against the Rev. C. John McCloskey, a once-prominent cleric in the Washington area who helped convert several well-known conservative figures, including Newt GingrichRick SantorumSam Brownback and Larry Kudlow.

The settlement of $977,000 was paid in 2005 — three years after a woman filed a sexual misconduct complaint against McCloskey, Opus Dei said Monday. The announcement was the first time the complaint and settlement have been made public by the organization.

The woman, who has not been publicly identified, told The Washington Post that McCloskey “groped her several times” during pastoral counseling sessions at the Catholic Information Center, located near the White House in downtown D.C.

The woman said she’d gone to the priest — described by the Post as having almost celebrity-like status among D.C.-area Roman Catholics — to discuss her marital troubles and depression. She claimed McCloskey urged her not to tell anyone about his inappropriate behavior.

“I love Opus Dei but I was caught up in this coverup — I went to confession, thinking I did something to tempt this holy man to cross boundaries,” the woman told the Post.

McCloskey was removed from his job at the Catholic Information Center in 2003 following an investigation into the woman’s claims, Opus Dei Vicar Monsignor Thomas Bohlin told the AP. The priest’s activities with women were subsequently restricted, Bohlin said.

“We wish to sincerely apologize — and offer our fervent prayers — to the victim, and anyone else who has suffered because of this misconduct by Fr. McCloskey,” the Catholic Information Center said in a statement on Monday. It added that Opus Dei is probing a second possible sexual misconduct claim against the priest.

McCloskey, now in his 60s, has not responded publicly to the allegations. Opus Dei said the priest has Alzheimer’s and is largely incapacitated.