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January 27, 2005

Lawyer for accused priest challenges man's claim

In cross-examination, accuser says his life spiraled downward
Janaury 27, 2005 [Associated Press]

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (AP) -- The lawyer for defrocked priest Paul Shanley sought to undermine the credibility of his accuser Thursday, grilling the man under cross-examination about his troubled childhood, abuse of alcohol and steroids, and gambling.

The man testified for a second day of Shanley's rape trial, one of the few cases in which prosecutors have been able to bring charges against priests accused of molesting boys decades ago.

The man, now a 27-year-old firefighter, is the lone accuser remaining in the case. He says Shanley raped and molested him at a Newton parish over a period of six years, beginning when he was 6.

He says he didn't recover memories of the abuse until early 2002, when he heard a friend's account of being abused as a boy by Shanley, one of the central figures in the Boston Archdiocese's clergy sex abuse scandal.

But Shanley's lawyer, Frank Mondano, has implied that the man's account was tailored to conform to those of three other alleged victims who were dropped from the case by prosecutors.

The accuser said his mother left him when he was 3 years old, and his father beat him. Under a barrage of questions from Mondano, he also acknowledged that he drank heavily and abused steroids for eight years starting when he was 16. He also said he gambled away hundreds of dollars at a time.

He blamed his steroid use on Shanley, saying the sexual abuse caused him to develop a "poor self-image."

Steroids "just made me feel better about myself," said the accuser, who said he once smuggled steroids across the border from Mexico. "I just thought I looked better."

Plaintiffs in the hundreds of lawsuits filed over the clergy sex abuse scandal have made similar claims that they spiraled into lives of drug abuse and depression after being molested by Roman Catholic priests.

Mondano challenged claims the man made his lawsuit, which he settled with the archdiocese last year for $500,000. In it, the man blamed Shanley for his difficulty maintaining relationships and for his failure to realize his dream of playing major league baseball.

"This, too, you blame on Paul Shanley?" Mondano asked.

"Absolutely," the accuser said.

Mondano has said the man made up his story to cash in on the multimillion-dollar settlements paid to victims of the Boston scandal.

The man testified Wednesday that Shanley would pull him from Sunday morning catechism classes at St. Jean's parish and sexually abuse him in the church pews, confessional, rectory and bathroom. He said the abuse began when he was 6 and continued until 1989, when he was 12.

"He'd unzip my pants," the accuser said. "Sometimes he would kneel down and try to teach me how to perform oral sex."

Shanley faces three charges of raping a child and two charges of indecent assault and battery on a child. He could get life in prison if convicted.

His case became one of the most notorious in the abuse scandal because personnel records released by the archdiocese showed that church officials knew Shanley publicly advocated sex between men and boys, yet continued to transfer him from parish to parish.

The case hinges on the concept of repressed memory, in which past experiences are suppressed in the subconscious until a trigger brings them back.

Shanley's accuser said the scandal in Boston triggered his 20-year-old memories of being molested. But Mondano has questioned the timing and validity of those memories and said he would call expert witnesses to debunk the science behind repressed memories.

Most of the priests accused in hundreds of civil lawsuits avoided prosecution because the alleged crimes were committed so long ago that charges were barred by the statute of limitations. But because Shanley moved out of Massachusetts, the clock stopped. He was arrested in California in 2002.

Posted by Nancy at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

Panel rules priest sex abuse suits filed late

Lawyer will appeal Schuylkill judges' dismissal of two cases against Allentown Diocese.
January 27, 2005 [The Morning Call] By Chris Parker

A panel of Schuylkill County judges has dismissed two child molestation lawsuits against the Allentown Catholic Diocese, saying the alleged victims waited too long to file their claims of priest sexual abuse.

Though the judges found the diocese's failure to protect its young parishioners ''shocking and irresponsible,'' they said the men's claim that they were harmed again in 2002 when they learned the diocese had transferred some abusive priests to other communities wasn't an issue.

The cases only concerned the statute of limitations, the judges said.

A lawyer for the two men plans to appeal the ruling to the state Superior Court, which has scheduled a Feb. 16 hearing to determine the course of similar suits across Pennsylvania.

Superior Court rebuffed the diocese last fall, refusing to hear arguments that Lehigh County lawsuits alleging sexual abuse shouldn't be allowed to proceed because the statute of limitations for filing them had expired.

The panel of six Schuylkill judges, without dissension, ruled in identical 22-page opinions Tuesday that Vincent Catizone Jr. of Girardville and Scott Greis of Schuylkill County waited too long — more than 20 years — to file their suits.

Their attorney, Jay N. Abramowitch of Wyomissing, near Reading, and colleague Richard Serbin of Altoona sued the diocese and Bishop Edward P. Cullen and retired Bishop Thomas J. Welsh because the two-year statute of limitations against individual priests had passed.

The Schuylkill cases involve the Rev. Francis J. McNelis, who retired in 2002 and is living in Holy Family Villa in Bethlehem, and the late Monsignor William E. Jones, a former pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church, Minersville.

''We are disappointed in the finding,'' Abramowitch said.

Greis and Catizone couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Diocese attorney Joseph F. Leeson Jr. of Bethlehem, noting that none of the judges dissented, called their opinions ''strong and emphatic. … I think they are scholarly and well-reasoned opinions that are based on the law.''

Each of the two suits, filed in January 2004, consists of 12 counts and seeks monetary awards of more than $50,000 for each count.

The Schuylkill panel agreed with the diocese that the two-year deadline to file a civil lawsuit seeking money for injuries had elapsed. The alleged incidents began in 1966 for Greis, then 10, and in 1978 for Catizone, then 14.

The panel ruled that the statute ''has been consistently applied to other cases in Pennsylvania'' and dismissed the claims.

Catizone and Greis also alleged in their suits that the diocese and bishops had a duty to report the abuse, according to 1994 legislation that requires clergy to report sexual abuse.

The panel ruled that the law could not be applied retroactively.

''At the time of the events at issue, members of the clergy were not responsible under the [law] to report suspicions of child abuse,'' the panel ruled.

When the Schuylkill judges heard arguments in October, Abramowitch said his clients didn't discover until 2002, through the media, that the diocese had harmed them by hiding incidents of sexual abuse, and that is when the two-year period started.

Leeson said the fact a wrongdoing was publicly disclosed has no legal bearing on incidents that happened many years ago.

The suits also alleged that Greis and Catizone were harmed again in April 2002, ''when the Catholic Church revealed it had a policy of relocating sexually abusive priests to other communities, and that the church chose not to report these incidents to the police because, at the time, the law did not require it.''

The transfer of priests known to have molested children was not an issue in Greis' and Catizone's cases, the judges said, ''however shocking and irresponsible we may consider the diocese's failure to protect its child parishioners.''

Serving on the Schuylkill panel were President Judge William Baldwin and Judges Jacqueline Russell, E. Michael Stine, Cyrus Palmer Dolbin, John Domalakes and Charles M. Miller.

Catizone, who was 10 in 1966 when McNelis allegedly began to abuse him, was an altar boy and parishioner at St. Joseph's in Girardville, according to his suit.

The suit says McNelis performed sex acts on Catizone in his bedroom, his car, the rectory garage and other rooms in the rectory, and that the abuse continued for two to three years until Catizone was 13.

Greis alleges Jones fondled him and performed oral sex on him on numerous occasions beginning in 1978. Once, the suit says, Jones and another priest performed oral sex on Greis and several other boys on a trip to Jones' home in Tower City. Jones died in May.

Six similar cases, also filed by Abramowitch and Serbin, are pending in Lehigh County Court. Last June, three Lehigh judges declined to dismiss the suits.

In November, Superior Court chose not to hear the diocese's arguments that the Lehigh County lawsuits shouldn't be allowed to proceed. The court rejected the diocese's appeal of that decision, Leeson said.

At the hearing next month, Superior Court will consider appeals in similar cases stemming from a Philadelphia case, Abramowitch said.

''That ruling would be binding on cases in all the counties,'' he said.

In Philadelphia, a county judge threw out priest sexual abuse suits filed against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, saying the statute of limitations had expired.

Posted by Nancy at 08:39 PM | Comments (0)

Three insurance firms sue LA Catholic bishop over child sex abuse deals

January 27, 2005 [Agence France Presse]

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Three insurance firms have sued the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, accusing its leader of refusing to share information about alleged priestly sex abuse, a report said.

The companies have asked a judge to order Cardinal Roger Mahony to provide documents that could be used to relieve them of liability stemming from allegations by more than 535 people since the 1930s, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"For whatever reasons, the archbishop's apparent goal is to obviate any meaningful disclosure of the facts and circumstances of these claims, and yet to pressure (the insurers) to contribute enormous sums of money" to settle the cases, according to the lawsuit.

The 12-page complaint was filed by three members of American International Group Inc.: Insurance Co. of the State of Pennsylvania, Granite State Insurance Co. and American Home Assurance Co.

The three companies provided coverage for the church in the 1970s.

More than one billion dollars in damages could be assessed against the church, the insurance companies stated in the lawsuit, according to the Times.

"They have full access to the files," responded Mahony's lead lawyer, J. Michael Hennigan, according to the Times. "They are supposed to be on our side."

US Roman Catholic dioceses have seen their finances hit hard by waves of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against them since the child sex scandal broke in Boston, Massachusetts, in early 2002.

Three dioceses -- Spokane in Washington state, Portland in Oregon and Tucson in Arizona -- have filed for bankruptcy, while the Los Angeles area Diocese of Orange in December struck a record 100-million-dollar settlement deal with 87 alleged victims of its priests.

Posted by Nancy at 08:30 PM | Comments (0)