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
Last year Salveson criticized the Archdiocese of Philadelphias
Commission on the Protection of Children and Clerical Conduct
for not including input from SNAP members in its recommendations.
He used Fridays 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,"
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 OHara 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
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. Gregorys Church in West
Philadelphia, where they were altar boys. The church closed
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 Joness whereabouts.
Monday archdiocesan officials offered no further comment from
their Friday statement that said they had not yet reviewed
At Fridays 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. Hes 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
McDonnell, who noted that Brian hasnt worked in 25
years, said in December he met with archdiocesan officials
and asked them to cover Brians living costs for the
rest of his life and they refused. He said in November he
obtained Chambers employment history from the archdiocesan
victims 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. Gregorys 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 hadnt 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 brothers
bar in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby.
"For the last 24 years Ive lived fear, anger,
hate, every bad thing. Its time to put this behind me
and move on," noted Dolan.
©The Daily Times 2004