The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
Ex Charlotte pedophile priest settles lawsuit
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell)
What almost always gets overlooked in settlement announcements is this crucial fact: without this brave victim, this predator priest might still be in a parish today, or at least be relatively unknown as a child molester.
When child sex victims are strong enough to come forward and wise enough to take legal action, kids are protected and abuse is prevented. This crucial benefit of child sex abuse litigation often goes unrecognized.
We are very grateful to Eric for his courage and compassion and believe all Delaware citizens should also be grateful.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 17 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688), Mary Grant (626-419-2930), Mark Serrano (703-727-4940)
By Beth Miller • The News Journal • May 15, 2008
WILMINGTON — A 40-year-old Wilmington man today settled his 2004 child sexual abuse lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, marking the end of the first case filed against a Delaware priest since the clergy abuse scandal emerged nationally in 2002.
With the settlement, Eric Eden -- formerly Eric Mazzetti -- received an undisclosed sum from the diocese, according to his attorney, Thomas S. Neuberger. Eden had claimed the diocese conspired to cover up the abuse.
Diocese officials confirmed the settlement today, and planned a statement later today.
"I want to thank my wife for standing behind me over the last four long difficult years," Eden said in a prepared statement. "When no one first believed me, she did. I also thank Judge Calvin L. Scott Jr. and the Delaware Supreme Court. Justice is available in Delaware, even when it first looks hopeless."
Eden had settled for an undisclosed sum in March with Salesianum School and the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales for abuses he said he suffered over a nine-year period from a former principal of the school, the Rev. James W. O'Neill.
According to the lawsuit, the abuse started in 1976, when Eden was a student at the school. Eden alleged O'Neill visited the Mazzetti home to tutor him, but instead would have the boy sit on his lap so he could fondle him.
The suit also alleged that O'Neill molested Eden during family vacations, at the priest's residence and in the school office.
As part of the settlement in March, Eden received an apology from the Oblates, and O'Neill was permanently removed from ministry and assigned to live at the Oblates' retirement community in Childs, Md.
Other cases alleging childhood sexual abuse by priests are pending against the diocese, as well as several parishes and area Catholic schools. The most recent case was filed last week by a Wilmington man who alleged he was abused by a Capuchin friar while a student at St. Edmond's Academy.
By John Railey
Officials with the Catholic diocese that includes this area are responding to four allegations of inappropriate behavior by priests, the latest allegation coming the day after members of a Greensboro parish learned that their priest had been removed.
Members of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Greensboro were told Sunday that their priest, the Rev. Jim O'Neill, had been relieved of his duties after an allegation was made Thursday of "inappropriate behavior" that occurred before O'Neill came to Greensboro.
O'Neill, who was a Catholic educator before coming to St. Paul's 11 years ago, is well-liked within his parish of about 5,500 members, officials said.
"We've had a lot of calls coming in, and they're expressing their concern and their support," said the Rev. Anthony Gilborges, an associate pastor at St. Paul's who is temporarily overseeing the parish. "They're concerned about Father Jim and are wishing him the best. They're keeping all the good that he has done in mind."
St. Paul's is part of the Charlotte Diocese of the Catholic Church, which also includes churches in Forsyth County. Diocese officials said yesterday that the allegation against O'Neill is one of "inappropriate behavior" and stopped short of calling it an allegation of sexual misconduct. They declined to give any details about the allegation.
Diocese officials said they received yesterday a fourth allegation against a priest. They declined to give any further information.
Officials are also responding to two allegations of sexual abuse by priests said to have occurred more than 25 years ago. Those allegations were reported early last week and have been turned over to authorities, diocese officials said. The allegation reported yesterday has also been turned over to authorities, they said.
Before coming to St. Paul's in 1991, O'Neill served as a math teacher and assistant principal at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Va., from 1968 to 1973; as a math teacher and principal at Salesianum School in Wilmington, Del., from 1973 to 1986; and as the principal of Archbishop Wood High School in Warminister, Pa., From 1986 to 1990, according to information provided by Catholic officials.
Gilborges said that O'Neill is now "out of the state."
O'Neill is a member of an order of priests, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. The Oblates are investigating the allegation against O'Neill, said Joann Keane, a spokeswoman for the Charlotte Diocese. "Upon completion, we will receive a report," she wrote in an e-mail to the Journal. Keane said in an e-mail that the diocese has received letters of support for O'Neill.
The ultimate decision as to whether O'Neill remains a priest will be up to the Oblates, diocese officials said.
Gilborges said that he was shocked when he learned of the allegation against O'Neill, whom he has worked with for five years. Gilborges said that he was notified by the Rev. Joseph Morrisey of Delaware, the provincial of the Oblates of St. Francis. In a statement read at masses at St. Paul's Sunday, Morrisey said he received the allegation against O'Neill on Thursday night. "I ask you, as members of this parish community, to hold us all in prayer, particularly Father Jim's accuser and Father Jim himself," Morrisey said.
Carol Kuzmak, a St. Paul's member, said she is praying for O'Neill. "You don't make a judgment until you know things," she said.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests