Three Brothers Claim Priest Abused Them
Three Separate Lawsuits Allege Molestation of Boys at Rectory in 1970s, Threats to Keep Them Silent
By Elizabeth Hamilton
November 14, 2007
Three brothers whose mother worked for a Catholic church in the late 1970s were all molested by a priest who threatened her job if they reported the abuse, a series of lawsuits against the Hartford Archdiocese contends.
Richard, Paul and Niles Mallory allege in separate lawsuits that Ivan Ferguson, who died in 2002 at age 68, got to know them individually when they accompanied their mother to St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Church in the Tariffville section of Simsbury in 1977 and 1978.
Ferguson, the priest in charge of youth activities and altar boys at St. Bernard's, expressed an interest in their hobbies, then took the boys up to his second-floor bedroom in the rectory at different times and molested them, the lawsuits say. In order to keep the abuse a secret, the lawsuits allege, Ferguson told each of the brothers he would have their mother fired from her job as director of religious education if they told anyone.
He also is alleged to have told Richard Mallory he would go to hell if he reported the abuse and saying, "The devil is waiting for you, sooner than you'd expect, if any word gets out."
Their lawyer, Thomas McNamara, said the abuse ranged from improper touching to sodomy. All three lawsuits were filed in New Haven Superior Court.
"The family was very poor and Ferguson knew it," McNamara said.
The prospect of their mother losing her job worried the Mallory boys, McNamara said. One of the boys, who had asthma, worried that if he told on Ferguson his family would lose health insurance and he wouldn't be able to get his asthma medicine.
Jacquelyn Mallory, who did not learn of the alleged abuse until her sons were adults, issued a statement Tuesday.
"Short of losing a child, I can't think of anything more devastating than learning that your child has been harmed for life," the statement says. "What happened to our family has profoundly changed our lives, our faith and our relationships. It was difficult to learn about the abuse and manipulation by Ivan Ferguson and it is most painful to deal with it at this time."
The brothers, who lived in New Milford at the time of the alleged abuse, now live in Florida. The most recent lawsuits were brought by Richard and Paul Mallory, who were 15 and 12 respectively, when they met Ferguson. Their older brother, Niles, who was 16, sued the church in September.
McNamara said that Ferguson "had a way of making you think he was interested in you."
In the case of Paul Mallory, who was 12 in the summer of 1978, the priest expressed an interest in baseball, which was Paul's favorite sport. Richard Mallory's hobby was astronomy, McNamara said, so Ferguson took him upstairs to his bedroom to use his telescope.
The lawsuit says the archdiocese failed to adequately supervise, monitor and investigate Ferguson. McNamara said a priest living in the rectory with Ferguson knew he was taking boys up to his bedroom and should have reported it. Another priest who was told about Ferguson's behavior with young boys by a different victim during the same time period also failed to report the abuse, McNamara said.
All three Mallory brothers have suffered serious emotional damage, as well as spiritual damage, as a result of the abuse, the lawsuits say.
Ferguson has been a subject of previous litigation against the church. The first lawsuits concerning Ferguson were brought against the Hartford Archdiocese in 1993. Three men who were students at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford claimed Ferguson sexually abused them between 1975 and 1978, when he was a chaplain and teacher at the school.
Two of those lawsuits were settled as part of a $22 million settlement by the Hartford Archdiocese in 2005, and one was withdrawn.
Ferguson, who was ordained in 1970, specialized in youth ministry at parishes in Derby, Bristol and Tariffville, until he joined the chaplaincy staff at Hartford Hospital in 1985. He worked in that job until 1993, when the archdiocese placed him on administrative leave and he moved to St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield.
The Rev. John Gatzak, a spokesman for the Hartford Archdiocese, said the church does not comment on active litigation.
But, he added, this lawsuit is "a reminder that we have to redouble our efforts so we don't repeat history."
Contact Elizabeth Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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