On February 3, 2003, Detective Michael Reedy from a New Jersey prosecutors’ office came to my office and said to me: “You have been accused of molesting two little sisters, Nora and Mary in 1980.”
I could not have been more shocked by such an outrageous accusation. “I certainly did not,” I said emphatically and without hesitation.
“Well,” Detective Reedy remarked, “you don’t remember because it was too painful and you buried it—but you did do it.”
After the detective left I was in complete shock. Surely the detective will go back and discover he is chasing after a lead that is based on false information, I thought to myself, and my name will be cleared. But this was not to be the case.
A few days later I was called to the prosecutors’ office. When I arrived there, Detective Reedy informed me that the family did not accuse me. Rather, two unrelated women came to his office and did so. Again I categorically denied that I had touched or done anything inappropriate to the sisters. I asked him, “Where did this alleged crime happen, and how did it happen?”
He said matter-of-factly, “You sat down on the couch in the Snedo home and you took the little sisters on your lap and touched them.” Then he demonstrated to me that I touched their thighs and breasts.
I looked him squarely in the eyes and said, “First of all, I have no recollection of seeing them in their house. Even if they were there, they would not go near me. I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me. After all, I was only in the parish a few months.”
Detective Reedy continued to investigate me for several more weeks and he finally called me to come in and “wrap things up.” When I got there, he ambushed me: “Well now, it comes down to two things. Either you sign a confession or you take a polygraph test.”
“I will be happy to take a lie detector test and finally have a chance to clear myself,” I said eagerly, seeing the opportunity for vindication.
As if on cue, the operator came into the room, quickly hooked me up to the polygraph machine, and proceeded to ask me questions. At the end he abruptly said, “You failed and you are guilty.”
I was flabbergasted; I knew something wasn’t right. “I want a second opinion,” I insisted.
He gave me the name of another operator; then Detective Reedy called me out of the room. He brought me through dark corridors, rattling keys while we walked, and took me into another dingy, dark room where we sat down. With a certain amount of satisfaction, he proceeded to tell me that they now had all the evidence in the world that I did this terrible thing.
When I protested, he ordered me to sign a confession. I refused and said defiantly, “I will not sign my name to a lie.”
After at least two more hours of interrogation, I informed him that I had to go home as I had to conduct a Pre Cana weekend. I shook his hand, left him, and drove home in a snow storm.
I knew this was not going to go away without a fight. The following week I retained Gerry Rooney as my lawyer. He interviewed me and checked whether my case fell under the statute of limitations. He informed me that it did not, and that’s the reason why the detective had gone this far. Then he asked me to take another polygraph test. I asked him the name of the operator. It turned out to be the same operator that Detective Reedy’s operator had recommended to me for a second opinion. I refused to have anything to do with a friend of Reedy’s operator.
A few days later, my attorney referred me to the prestigious Argus Investigative firm in Scotch Plains, NJ, for a balanced and unbiased polygraph test. This time, the results showed that I conclusively passed—that I was innocent. The results were sent to my civil and canon lawyers, and were later presented at my Ecclesiastical trial (which would not come to be until four more interminable years).
A little while after the initial criminal investigation ended, it was late at night and I was upstairs in the rectory when I heard a noise downstairs that frightened me, since I was the only person in the rectory at the time. I called the police who arrived in about fifteen minutes to the parking lot of the rectory, with their lights flashing. I stuck my head out of the window and within minutes the policemen were laughing good-naturedly. I went downstairs and they informed me that the noise had been made by Mr. Al Betwinas, from bingo; he had been bringing the bingo change to the rectory. The next day, rumors ran wild throughout the community. Some of them had me arrested and put in jail, which caused a great number of people to call the parish office, the police department, and the town hall. The next day I mailed a letter to all my parishioners to explain to them what had actually happened.
Monsignor William M. McCarthy served as pastor of St. Rose of Lima parish, East Hanover, effective from 1980 to 2003 and currently holds the title of Pastor Emeritus.
Born in County Cork, Ireland, he came to the U.S. following his ordination to the priesthood in 1963. He was graduated from St. Patrick Seminary, Carlow. His first U.S. parish assignment was St. Patrick, Chatham, where he remained from 1963 to 1968. He spent a year as associate pastor of St. Nicholas parish, Passaic. From 1969 to 1974 he served as associate pastor of St. Michael, Netcong, and from there went to St. Cecilia, Rockaway.
Learn more at http://www.msgrwilliammccarthy.com/
About the Book:
The Conspiracy chronicles the monumental struggles of an innocent priest, Monsignor William McCarthy, falsely accused in 2003 of molesting two young sisters more than 23 years earlier. On the eve of his retirement from a stellar career as a priest and pastor, he becomes the victim of an anonymous complaint. Over the next five years, he struggles to prove his innocence to the Church and community. His own bishop and a friend of 40 years abandons him; and the Monsignor has only his faith to give him the strength to prove his innocence. The Conspiracy is a book that demonstrates how one’s faith can overcome even the worst injustices perpetrated on any human being.