|New York pastor's
accuser comes forward; 2nd victim awaits?
N.J. man says Msgr. Gaffney raped him over
3-year-span when he was an altar boy, student at St. Charles
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
By LESLIE PALMA-SIMONCEK
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE
In the week since Dan O'Dougherty's allegations of sexual
abuse 17 years ago at the hands of an Oakwood priest became
public in the Advance, a second potential victim has surfaced
with a disturbingly similar story, according to O'Dougherty's
Yesterday O'Dougherty, 29, his family, supporters and attorney
called for the immediate removal of the priest, Monsignor
Thomas Gaffney, pastor of St. Charles R.C. Church in Oakwood,
while the Archdiocese of New York investigates the allegations.
Monsignor Gaffney has denied the accusations.
O'Dougherty, speaking in person for the first time during
a press conference in the Livingston, N.J., office of attorney
Bruce Nagel, said the monsignor raped him repeatedly over
a three-year period when he was a student in the sixth, seventh
and eighth grades at St. Charles School and an altar boy in
Nagel said that in the last week he has been contacted by
a young man who was a student at St. Joseph by-the-Sea High
School when Monsignor Gaffney was principal there.
"We know there were other young boys who were sexually
abused by this man," Nagel claimed. The man he spoke
to, who both lives and works on the Island, "is as credible
as the day is long," he said.
The attorney said he hopes that young man, and any others
who might have been abused, will decide to come forward.
"We are calling today for the immediate removal of Father
Gaffney," Nagel said. "This is a man who should
not be wearing a collar."
O'Dougherty, who now lives in Morristown, N.J., said the
assaults against him often took place in what he described
as "the altar boy room," where altar servers would
vest for mass.
"At the time I felt like it was my fault," O'Dougherty
said, "like how could I let this happen?" He said
the priest told him the sexual activity would prepare him
for life and bring him closer to God.
O'Dougherty, a construction worker in his father's contracting
business, said he kept the secret from his parents, three
siblings and friends, out of embarrassment and shame. He turned
to drugs and alcohol to "self-medicate," he said.
In October 2003, nearly two years after the U.S. sex-abuse
scandal in the Roman Catholic Church began making headlines
across the country, he decided to break his silence. What
finally convinced him was learning about the suicide of another
New Jersey man who had said he was abused by a priest.
"I just looked at my life and my life wasn't going anywhere,"
O'Dougherty said. "I heard a lot of people were coming
out." He said he feels "a weight has been lifted,"
since he first told his parents and a family friend, the Rev.
William Scully, about the abuse.
"This is not about money, this is public disclosure,"
Nagel said, adding that the family has not decided whether
or not to go forward with a civil lawsuit. "It's about
the removal of a predator in a collar."
The archdiocese said it has not removed Monsignor Gaffney
because its attorneys have been denied access to O'Dougherty.
Nagel said he will not agree to such an interview unless Monsignor
Gaffney is also present.
"We can't compel Monsignor Gaffney to speak," said
Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the archdiocese.
The charter on child protection adopted by the United States
Conference of Bishops does not require someone making an allegation
to have a face-to-face interview; a sworn statement is sufficient,
Father Scully said.
According to Nagel, the archdiocese has been provided with
the statement his client made to the Staten Island district
attorney's office in October.
"It's not sufficient," Zwilling said. "In
all of the other cases [involving other priests], we have
had an opportunity to sit down to speak with the person making
the allegation and decide what action, if any, needs to be
The district attorney's office took no action in the case,
presumably because the statute of limitations had expired.
The office has declined comment on the issue.
Zwilling has said that Monsignor Gaffney was allowed to remain
in his post because O'Dougherty's accusation is the first
against the priest in the 54 years since he was ordained.
"There's no action to be taken, based on what we have
been told so far," Zwilling said yesterday.
Monsignor Gaffney told the Advance in an interview published
Sunday that he has no memory of his accuser. However, O'Dougherty's
parents said that's not possible.
His father, also named Dan, a retired New York City Police
Department sergeant, ran the Cardinal's Appeal for the parish
and taught religious education there for eight years, he said.
His mother, Cathy, a nurse, ran a parish health program.
"He definitely knows who we are," said the elder
But Matthew Santamauro, one of two attorneys the priest hired
to defend him, yesterday reiterated what his client told the
"He has no recollection of this man," said the
New Dorp-based lawyer. "I really don't know if there's
anything else to say at this point."
The O'Doughertys said they knew something was wrong with
their son starting from the age of 11. He became withdrawn,
didn't want to go to church, and began having fainting spells
whenever he was on the altar. His most recent spell was at
his sister's wedding last year.
When he told his parents about the abuse, his father said
he didn't believe him at first, and then all the pieces started
to fit together -- the depression, the substance abuse, the
"Then I started to think, could this be possible?"
said the elder O'Dougherty, who is serving his second term
as a councilman in Kinnelon, N.J.
Mrs. O'Dougherty also said she would like to see the monsignor
"This man has robbed my son's soul." she said,
"and robbed his youth."
Leslie Palma-Simoncek is the religion editor for the Advance.
She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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