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Lawsuits alleging sexual abuse mount against archdiocese of Philadelphia

By Patti Mengers, Delco Times
February 3, 2004

John Salveson was not surprised when three lawsuits were filed Friday against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia hierarchy for allegedly not protecting five men when they were teenagers from priests who they maintain were known sexual predators.

"The Archdiocese of Philadelphia will have us believe that they have fixed the problem of sexual abuse among their priests and have taken care of those they have harmed. They have not. In fact, if they had done the right thing, we would not be standing here today," he said Friday at a press conference where the lawsuits were announced.

The 48-year-old Radnor resident is regional director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests or SNAP. He, himself, was allegedly abused as a teenager by a Long Island priest.

Last year Salveson criticized the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Commission on the Protection of Children and Clerical Conduct for not including input from SNAP members in its recommendations.

He used Friday’s press conference at the Radnor Hotel as an opportunity to once again call for archdiocesan officials to implement those recommendations.

Among them are the release of all "secret personnel files" to criminal authorities so that they may determine whether prosecution of abusive priests is appropriate and to involve SNAP members in the process of reviewing allegations against abusive priests.

"The vast majority of the progress made in holding the church accountable has taken place because of abuse survivors," maintained Salveson.

Friday three of five alleged victims of clerical sexual abuse appeared at the press conference where attorneys Richard M. Serbin of Altoona and Jay N. Abramowitch of Wyomissing announced the three lawsuits they had filed against archdiocesan leaders on their behalf.

Plaintiffs include a 37-year-old Chester County man identified as CJM or Christopher who said, starting at age 15, he was sexually assaulted by the Rev. Richard G. Jones, a former religion teacher at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Marple. Christopher claims he was abused both at the high school and at a residence he shared with Jones on the grounds of SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery across the street from the high school from 1980 through 1983.

A suit was also filed on behalf of James P. Dolan, 37, of Philadelphia, who said he was fondled by the Rev. Joseph P. Gausch at least five times starting at age 14 as an altar boy at Good Shepherd Church in Southwest Philadelphia in 1980 and 1981.

The third suit was filed on behalf of John Patrick McDonnell, 60, now of California and Alex Joseph McDonnell, 61, and Brian Francis McDonnell, 59, both of Montgomery County. They were 13, 14 and 12 respectively when the alleged abuse by the Rev. Gerard Chambers started at St. Gregory’s Church in West Philadelphia, where they were altar boys. The church closed in 1981.

Chambers and Gausch are dead and Jones is no longer in active ministry said Archdiocese of Philadelphia spokeswoman Catherine Rossi who declined to elaborate on Jones’s whereabouts. Monday archdiocesan officials offered no further comment from their Friday statement that said they had not yet reviewed the lawsuits.

At Friday’s press conference, John McDonnell, who is now a real estate investor in California, said he had contemplated suicide and his brother, Brian had attempted it last year.

"I saw Brian on Wednesday. He’s a year younger than me but he looks 25 years older," said McDonnell.

He maintained that there is a direct link between the abuse by Chambers that Brian endured as an adolescent and the fact that he is currently in a lockdown unit at Norristown State Hospital.

McDonnell, who noted that Brian hasn’t worked in 25 years, said in December he met with archdiocesan officials and asked them to cover Brian’s living costs for the rest of his life and they refused. He said in November he obtained Chambers’ employment history from the archdiocesan victim’s assistance office.

"The longest assignment he had was 28 months in 40 years. That should have been an immediate flag that something was wrong here," said McDonnell.

The list indicates Chambers was ordained May 26, 1934. McDonnell said he died in 1974.

He was assistant pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Chester Heights from October 1935 until June 1936 and at St. Francis De Sales Church in the Lenni section of Aston from June 1941 until August 1943, but neither church is mentioned in the lawsuit as sites of alleged abuse by Jones.

During his 40 years of service listed in his archdiocesan employment record, he was on "health leave" seven times, four of those times at Villa St. Joseph in Darby.

According to the lawsuit, the molestation and/or sexual abuse of the McDonnell brothers, who were among seven children of Irish immigrants, occurred in St. Gregory’s sacristy, at the New Jersey shore, and in the vehicle Chambers used to transport them on various occasions.

It also allegedly occurred at an all-male orphanage owned and operated by the archdiocese, St. Francis Orphanage in the Pocono Mountain town of Orwigsburg where Chambers was chaplain from January to July 1957.

"That is where some of the abuse happened to me," said McDonnell, who likened Chambers to "a kid in a candy store" at the all-male orphanage.

Dolan said on Friday that when Gausch sexually assaulted him, he stole his innocence and his life from him.

"I went from the life of a little kid to a life of hell. I struggle with it every day. Maybe if it hadn’t happened, my life would have been different," said Dolan.

He said his fiancee, Angie, rescued him from the streets 2½ years ago. She sat in the audience and quietly wept Friday as he told his story. Dolan now manages his brother’s bar in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby.

"For the last 24 years I’ve lived fear, anger, hate, every bad thing. It’s time to put this behind me and move on," noted Dolan.

©The Daily Times 2004





Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org

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