Diocese Facing Another Lawsuit
By James V. Franco
Troy Record [Albany NY]
May 8, 2003
ALBANY - Attorney John Aretakis, who represents dozens of alleged clergy abuse victims, filed suit Wednesday against an area priest for recently stalking and harassing an alleged victim, and against three other priests because the stalking priest was doing so on their behalf.
The suit, which asks for $600,000 plus punitive damages, marks the fourth official action taken by Aretakis against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, also named in this suit because the employer has responsibility for its employees.
Aretakis, during a press conference Wednesday, alleges that in 1976, when his now 42-year-old client was 16 years old, Rev. Alan Jupin got the teen drunk and raped him.
The statute of limitations has long expired for criminal charges to be filed on the alleged abuse, but the case is based on the premise that Jupin stalked and harassed his client in June, 2002, and again in February.
Jupin, now serving at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Schenectady, allegedly tracked the "victim" down as the clergy sex abuse scandal began heating up nationwide and tried to persuade the man to keep quiet about what had happened between them. At one point, the priest threatened suicide if the "victim" went public with his story.
The suit further alleges that Jupin engaged in the above activity on behalf of Rev. Louis Douglas, semi-retired and living in Wilmington, Del.; Rev. Neil Cawlings, of England; and Fr. Donald Ophals, serving at St. Frances de Sales on Congress Street in Troy, to cover their own alleged abuse of the boy.
In his case, Aretakis said his client did complain to another priest in 1990. However, diocesan spokesman Ken Goldfarb said the diocese, and particularly Bishop Howard Hubbard, had no recollection of the complaint.
Goldfarb did say that one of the priests named in the suit is currently being investigated by the diocese based on a complaint made two months ago, but would not say which one.
"We will not divulge any information until an investigation is completed and we have some reasonable cause to take action," he said. "No details will be made public until we reach some kind of conclusion."
Goldfarb also said there was a complaint filed against Douglas in the early 1990s. It was investigated at that time, and again in 2002 by the Diocesan Misconduct Panel, which was formed last year to deal with the sexual abuse scandal. While there was no evidence of sexual abuse, Goldfarb said, the complainant did receive a settlement from the diocese and did receive diocese-sponsored counseling.
"Both investigations reached the same conclusion: Based on available evidence, no sexual abuse occurred," he said.
"Nevertheless, the Albany Diocese did provide financial assistance and counseling to an individual who made a complaint about Father Douglas."
Goldfarb would not discuss details of the complaint or the size of the settlement.
Shortly after the suit was filed in Schenectady County Wednesday, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington suspended Douglas, said spokesman Robert Krebs.
Douglas retired to Wilmington in 1996, Krebs said, but still occasionally said Mass and performed other services.
Krebs said the diocese was well aware of the previous complaint made against Douglas, but that Douglas will remain suspended until the civil suit is litigated.
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