Pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea in Staten Island faces a second allegation of child sexual abuse; SNAP responds
In a letter to parishioners dated July 16th, 2021, Fr. Thomas Devery, Pastor of Our Lady of the Sea on Staten Island, informed the faithful that a second lawsuit under New York's Child Victim Act had been filed against him again alleging that he had sexually abused a minor decades ago. Fr. Devery further wrote that "in keeping with the policy" of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, he will be "stepping aside" from his assignment to the parish while this new accusation is investigated and resolved.
Fr. Devery was also the subject of a lawsuit filed in 2019 under the Child Victims Act. According to a letter the priest sent to Our Lady of the Sea parishioners in March of this year, that earlier accusation had also been made to the Archdiocese's Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) and was found to be "unsubstantiated" by the Archdiocesan Review Board and other investigating authorities.
The Archdiocese under Cardinal Timothy Dolan apparently received the first allegation against Fr. Devery in 2017, then investigated and resolved it without ever informing the parishioners of the accusation and while allowing the priest to remain in ministry. The first allegation appears to have only been publicly disclosed by SNAP in March of this year.
Particularly now that there has been a second allegation against Fr. Devery, we are very concerned. The cleric is not only the pastor of the parish, but the church also has a Catholic school for Pre-K to Grade 8 children. We worry that other boys and girls may have been endangered from the time the first accusation was made in 2017 until now.
We know it is more common than not for an abusive clergy member to have more than one victim and that false allegations are extremely rare. Cardinal Dolan and other Catholic officials have often repeated since 2002 that they are interested in openness and transparency, yet that promise was not kept in this case. As far as we can tell, even the second accusation against Fr. Devery has yet to be publicly announced. We know that often survivors do not often remain in the Church and thus other victims are unlikely to have received Fr. Devery's letter.
It is long past time that Catholic officials take the outcry of victims seriously and do immediate outreach to the communities where the accused lived or worked. We demand that the Archdiocese stop playing judge and jury in these cases while keeping the accusations under wraps from the faithful and the public. From our seats, it may well be time for a canonical investigation into Cardinal Dolan. It seems "unsubstantiated" claims are an easy claim for his Archdiocesan Review Board to use while keeping the allegations hidden from public scrutiny.
CONTACT: Michael McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009), Brian Toale, SNAP New York ([email protected], 646-549-0372)