Former NY priest Francis Stinner dies, but sex abuse controversy lives on

Former NY priest Francis Stinner dies, but sex abuse controversy lives on

By Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, August 30, 2017, USA Today

Francis Stinner, a defrocked priest with ties to Somers, Bronxville, Chappaqua and Goshen in New York, died earlier this month at the age of 76.

But the sexual abuse controversy that has long surrounded him did not die with him.   

At least three new claims of sexual abuse have been filed against the former Catholic priest and teacher through the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, or IRCP, a special compensation program set up by the Archdiocese of New York.

Stinner, who was defrocked, or "laicized," in 2005, had already been linked to as many as 10 cases of sexual abuse of children dating to the 1980s.

"We are representing additional survivors of Father Stinner who either have submitted or will be submitting claims in Phase II of the IRCP," said J. Michael Reck, an attorney who represents victims of sexual abuse by clergy. "It's unfortunate there was never a judicial proceeding to determine justice for the survivors prior to his death."

The Archdiocese will not reveal how much has been paid in settlements, but attorneys for at least one man who was raped by Stinner as a child said he received approximately $350,000. 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced the first phase of the IRCP last year. The second phase was announced earlier this year, and was extended until Nov. 1 for new claims to be filed against Catholic clergy.

Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese, said 55 claims have been filed so far in the second phase of the program, with more expected as the deadline nears.

Twenty-seven of those claims have been reviewed and in 23 cases compensation was offered to the victims, Zwilling said. Nineteen victims accepted the church's offers while the remaining four are contemplating them.

Because the statute of limitations to seek criminal charges or file civil claims has expired on most of the abuse claims, the IRCP is the only means for victims to recoup monetary damages. 

Stinner, who continued to live in a small home in Somers until his death, served in several local communities until he was removed. 

Ordained in 1968, he began teaching at John S. Burke Catholic High School in Goshen in 1973. In 1981 he was assigned to St. Joseph's Church Catholic Church in Somers and began teaching at John F. Kennedy Catholic High School, where he also coached the boy's soccer team.

As allegations against him began to surface, Stinner was moved to other parishes, including to St. Joseph's Church in Bronxville and St. John and St. Mary Church in Bronxville, where he remained until 2001.

By the time he was laicized in 2005, it had been 17 years since the first abuse complaint against him. 

In an exclusive interview with The Journal News/lohud.com, one of Stinner's victims said he was raped by the priest when he was only 12.

"There's been generations of children in that neighborhood since this happened to me, and I have no idea if anything happened to them or not," the man said. "I just want people who live in the area to know. There's no Megan's Law or anything of that stuff for a log of these guys because it was handled by the Archdiocese."

The Journal News/lohud does not identify sexual-abuse victims. 

Stinner was not the only local priest defrocked for sexual abuse.

Others include John O'Keefe, former president of Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, Gennaro "Jerry" Gentile, who served in Tuckahoe, Croton-on-Hudson and Poughkeepsie, and Peter Kihm, who was assigned to churches in Nyack, Ossining, Fishkill and Poughkeepsie, among others.

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