Defrocked Priest Deluca Ailing, May Not Be in Court

By Sean O’Sullivan
News Journal
October 20, 2010

DOVER – When trial starts Monday in the first of the seven priest abuse lawsuits expected to could go forward this year, the man at the center of the charges, the former Rev. Francis DeLuca, will not be represented by counsel and will likely not be in court.

Superior Court President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. today allowed DeLuca’s attorney, Stephen P. Casarino, to withdraw from all seven cases.

Casarino told Vaughn the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington stopped paying his bills after it declared bankruptcy last October.

Casarino said he expected he eventually would be paid until last week when diocese officials made clear to him they would not be paying his past bills and would not be paying him in the future.

He added that DeLuca, 81 -- who has been convicted in New York state of sexually abusing a child, defrocked by the church and only has income from Social Security -- did not have any money to pay his legal bills.

Casarino said DeLuca also is in failing health, having recently had heart surgery, and is suffering from depression due to his legal woes, so he is not likely to make the trip from New York.

An attorney for plaintiff John Vai – Thomas C. Crumplar – did not oppose Casarino’s withdrawal as long as it would not delay Monday’s scheduled trial.

Vaughn noted that if DeLuca fails to appear, DeLuca’s sworn depositions – in which he admitted to molesting plaintiff John Vai and others, according to attorneys – can be used at trial in his place.

In his lawsuit against DeLuca and St. Elizabeth’s parish, Vai charges that DeLuca molested him multiple times starting in the late 1960s when Vai was 11 and the abuse continued for the next seven years. Crumplar said in court that DeLuca had convinced Vai’s parents to let him spend time with the child, including going on trips together, because he claimed to be training Vai to become a priest.

Vai alleges that parish officials failed to adequately protect him from the abuse and is seeking damages under the Delaware Child Victims Act.

His case was set to go to trial last October but was stopped when the diocese filed for bankruptcy protection.

Earlier this year, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi allowed Vai’s case and several others – all involving DeLuca -- to go forward in state court against individual parishes – which are considered to be separate business entities from the diocese.

However, attorneys for the plaintiffs in those cases have expressed concern that this round of trials also may be stopped at the last minute – just as they were a year ago – by the individual parishes filing for bankruptcy protection just like the diocese did.

Attorney Colleen Shields, who is representing St. Elizabeth’s, said Wednesday that she could not comment on any possible bankruptcy filing by the parish and as far as she knows there is no plan to do so.

Attorney Kevin J. Connors, who is representing St. John the Beloved, gave a similar answer. “I don’t know what the plans are. I’ve not been told,” he said.

Contact Sean O’Sullivan at 324-2777 or


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