Lawyer Decries Diocese Effort to Avoid Lawsuits

June 28, 2004

MORRISTOWN, N.J. (AP) A lawyer for 25 people who charge they suffered sexual abuse as children decried an effort by the Diocese of Paterson to dismiss a lawsuit on grounds that it was filed too late.

"This action by the Paterson Diocese is expected, though not Christian-like," lawyer Gregory Gianforcaro said Monday.

The motion by the diocese contends the plaintiffs should have filed the lawsuit within two years of when they turned 18, he said.

A spokeswoman for the diocese, Marianna Thompson, said the motion was filed Monday, but declined to address the lawyer's statement.

"That would be Mr. Gianforcaro's assessment of the matter," she said. "This being a legal matter, we have no further comment. It's being handled in the way that was planned."

Gianforcaro said his clients expect to prevail. He argued that New Jersey law says the clock on the statute of limitations does not start until "memories of abuse surface or the connection is made between the abuse and the damages." He said victims typically repress memories for years.

The lawyer also said that 20 of the 25 cases involve a former priest, James T. Hanley.

The former Paterson bishop, Frank Rodimer, said he waited 10 months to remove Hanley after the allegations were made public in the mid-1980s because he thought treatment for alcoholism would help end Hanley's alleged abuse.

Hanley requested to be defrocked in 2002, a process known in the church as voluntary laicization, and the Vatican granted his request. He has not been criminally prosecuted; prosecutors said the statute of limitations has expired for the incidents of which he is accused.


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