Abuse claims put Catholic Church in New York City under scrutiny

Names marked with an asterisk* have been changed to protect identities.

Gabriel* was a young Catholic student when Father John Paddack arrived at his school in 1984. The priest taught at Incarnation School, said mass at its parish and was involved with the altar boy programme. Before long, Gabriel says Paddack began calling him into a secluded place in the church, where the boy was instructed to confess his sins.

That is where Gabriel said Paddack molested him - about twice a week for two years, starting when he was between the ages of 11 and 12 years old.

Gabriel was familiar with the Catholic ritual of confession, but he said Paddack did things differently: There was no barrier separating them. In fact, he said, Paddack sat close to him, placing one hand behind his neck and the other on his inner thigh. 

"How do you get alone with someone?" he said. "Confession. You don't have a crowd. It's a one on one thing."

Gabriel kept the trauma of this abuse mostly to himself for decades. He was angry and ashamed. When Al Jazeera's current affairs programme Fault Lines interviewed him in June, he asked to use a pseudonym, fearing retribution from the Catholic Church hierarchy.

This year, Gabriel reported Paddack to local prosecutors and officials at the Archdiocese of New York. He said he came forward for one main reason: Paddack was still in ministry at Notre Dame Parish in Upper Manhattan - working in close proximity to children.

This summer, the 47-year-old resident of Upper Manhattan's Washington Heights neighbourhood found out that he was not alone. Fault Lines interviewed four other men who described abuse at the hands of Paddack during some of the most vulnerable times of their adolescence.

Taken together, their allegations detail a pattern of abuse by Paddack during confession and guidance counselling sessions in Catholic schools across New York City in the 1980s, 1990s and into the 2000s.

"As they're coming forward telling similar stories of patterned behaviour, you're saying, we've got a serial offender here," said lawyer Jeff Anderson, who...

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