Saturday, November 13, 2010

Victim testifies
Alleged priest abuse victim in Delaware testifies
Nov 12, 2010 1:39pm Email Print DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Wilmington man who claims he was abused as a boy by a convicted pedophile priest testified Friday that he sued Roman Catholic Church officials in part to atone for the abuse of a younger classmate by the same priest.
Testifying in his lawsuit against former priest Francis DeLuca and St. Elizabeth's parish in Wilmington, John Vai said that after trying for years to bury memories of his abuse, he became enraged when he learned in 2007 that Robert Quill, a former classmate at St. Elizabeth's, had filed a lawsuit alleging he had been abused by DeLuca.

"All hell broke loose in my brain ... I just couldn't believe it," Vai said.

"I'm so ashamed I didn't do something," Vai added. "... After I failed Robby Quill by not saying something, it was time for me to man up."

The trial in Vai's lawsuit began last month and is the first in a series to be held in the coming weeks and months by alleged victims of DeLuca. The trials were abruptly put on hold last year when the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, facing more than 100 priest abuse lawsuits, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

DeLuca, 80, was defrocked in 2008 after serving 60 days in a New York jail for repeatedly molesting his 18-year-old grandnephew.

Shortly after DeLuca was arrested in New York in 2006, the late Wilmington bishop Michael Saltarelli released the names of 20 diocesan priests, including DeLuca, against whom the diocese had substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse.

The diocese settled Quill's federal lawsuit in 2008.

The Associated Press typically does not name alleged victims of sexual abuse, but Quill and Vai have spoken publicly about the allegations.

DeLuca, who refused to attend Vai's trial, admitted in a videotaped deposition that he acted inappropriately with Vai and other young boys.

"I met the devil as an eighth-grader," said Vai, who described DeLuca as sick and evil.

"It's not an easy thing to talk about DeLuca and the abuse, but I know why I'm here," Vai told the jury. "... I want to know who knew about DeLuca."

The diocese's second in command, vicar general Thomas Cini, testified earlier this week that he had no knowledge that DeLuca was abusing boys while working as a teacher at St. Elizabeth's.

But Vai said Friday that he saw Cini in the rectory where DeLuca often abused him in his upstairs bedroom.

"Cini, on my deathbed, was in that rectory," said Vai, who recalled how he and other abuse victims would enter the rectory through the back door, then make their way upstairs.

"That is the stairs to hell," he said, pointing at a picture of the rectory. "I thought hell was down. Hell was up."

The Rev. Thomas Peterman, who served with DeLuca and Cini at St. Elizabeth's, has testified that he thought DeLuca was "too chummy" with some children.

"I'm just outraged what the hell 'too chummy' was 45 years ago," Vai said.

In her cross-examination, defense attorney Colleen Shields tried to poke holes in Vai's recollection of dates and events, suggesting that his claims of being molested more than 100 times were exaggerated. She also suggested that Saint Elizabeth's, from which Vai is seeking monetary damages, was also a victim of DeLuca because officials did not know what he was doing.

"I didn't file this lawsuit for money," responded Vai, who said it was hard to believe that priests who lived and worked with DeLuca didn't know he was molesting children. "What I want is my childhood back."

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