WGN Films presents “Sanctuary of Sin,” a series looking at a little-known religious order and the role it played in the Catholic church sex abuse crisis. This is Part 1 of 3.
John Bellocchio tells a gut-wrenching story.
Growing up in New Jersey, the Catholic Church played a major role in his community and family life.
“The church was a central aspect, physically, as well as spiritually,” he said.
But everything changed, he alleges in court filings, when he was around 13 and volunteering as an altar server at a mass led by Father Theodore McCarrick.
At the time, McCarrick was the Archbishop of Newark and a high-ranking figure in the church.
Bellocchio alleges that McCarrick abused him in the church after mass concluded.
It is not the only time McCarrick has been accused of sexual abuse. He is facing criminal charges in two states and was defrocked by the Vatican for sexual abuse in 2019.
So where did McCarrick end up?
Although he was expelled by the church, McCarrick has been living at a compound owned by the Servants of the Paraclete, a little-known Catholic religious order.
“The average Catholic in the pew on Sunday has no idea that the Servants of the Paraclete exists,” Kevin O’Neill, a professor in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto, said.
The property is located in a rural community in the middle of America.
WGN Films Presents ‘Sanctuary of Sin’
Part 1: Clergy sex abuse survivor shares story
Part 2: How a religious order became a sanctuary for pedophile priests
Part 3: Changes proposed for Servants of the Paraclete
“Most people have no idea,” David Clohessy, an advocate for survivors of clergy sex abuse, said. “This is where the worst priests in the country are being sent to live.”
An attorney for McCarrick declined to comment.
McCarrick has pleaded not guilty in Massachusetts and has yet to enter a plea in Wisconsin.
Bellocchio’s lawsuit versus McCarrick is pending in New Jersey. In court filings, McCarrick has denied the allegations.
Tuesday on the WGN News at Nine, in part two of the three-part “Sanctuary of Sin” series, we reveal how the Servants of the Paraclete began, how it grew and where it stands today.