Saturday, March 5, 2011

More lawsuits
More lawsuits loom for archdiocese
March 04, 2011|By John P. Martin, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Lawyers say they will file a new lawsuit Monday accusing Archdiocese of Philadelphia, its leaders and employees of conspiracy and fraud for failing to help a former young sacristan who claimed he was abused by a priest.

The claim would be the second of its kind since a Philadelphia grand jury last month charged four priests with molesting boys or concealing the attacks, and said the archdiocese attempts to reform had fallen short.

"This is yet another case in which the victim's assistance program didn't really do what it was supposed to do," said Marci Hamilton, one of the lawyers for the plaintiff.

A spokesman for the archdiocese declined comment.

Hamilton declined on Friday to identify the accused priest in the latest case or detail the allegations until the suit is filed, except to say he is no longer a priest and had been named in the 2005 grand jury report of abusive priests.

A news release about the lawsuit described the defendant as former pastor at Our Lady of Calvary Church. The 2005 report said one former pastor there, the Rev. Stanley Gana, "sexually abused countless boys."

Hamilton said the lawsuit will name the plaintiff only as a John Doe, but that he is considering publicly identifying himself during a news conference scheduled for Monday. Other abuse victims will also attend, she said.

Similar suits failed in the past, but the attorneys say they believe the grand jury's searing conclusions have given them new legal standing to pursue civil claims against the archdiocese.

Among other things, the panel concluded the church's victim assistance program has at times appeared to be less interested in helping victims than in protecting priests and church leaders.

In the weeks since the recent grand jury report, church officials have acknowledged failings in the system, apologized and pledged to improve. Cardinal Justin Rigali also announced new positions and procedures for handling abuse allegations, and hired a former sex-crimes prosecutor to review dozens of old claims.

Hamilton said the report has also stirred more victims to come forward. Asked if more lawsuits were looming, she said: "Many, many more."

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