|Clergy Abuse in Delaware: Oblates Settle with Two Victims
By Sean O'Sullivan
February 19, 2011
Two priest sexual-abuse cases -- which were not included in the $77 million settlement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington -- were settled out of court for $700,000 each.
The civil suit, filed in 2008 by Anthony Kramedas and Christopher Mauro, both 41, of Wilmington, alleged the Rev. Dennis Killion molested them when they were students at Salesianum School in Wilmington in the mid-1980s. The case was set to go to trial next week in New Castle County Superior Court.
While the Wilmington Diocese settled with about 150 victims of priest sexual abuse earlier this month, some 40 lawsuits against four religious orders that operate schools in Delaware -- such as the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, who run Salesianum -- were not part of the agreement and remain pending in state courts.
One of the witnesses who was expected to be called at that trial was the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, who was one of two priests and a lay teacher who were criminally charged last week by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams with the sexual assault of a 10-year-old.
According to attorneys, Engelhardt, 64, was Killion's supervisor at Salesianum when the plaintiffs allege they were molested between 1983 and 1986.
Bartholomew J. Dalton, one of the attorneys representing Kramedas and Mauro, said the two were friends and classmates at Salesianum.
According to the suit, Kramedas and Mauro worked for Killion in the school's bookstore and with him at bingo nights. The lawsuit stated Killion assaulted each on school grounds at the faculty house and on a school ski trip to Vermont.
The lawsuit also charges that Killion fondled and groped Kramedas in a confessional.
Court papers state Killion gave the pair money, teachers' editions of textbooks and other special treatment. A different plaintiff charged in court papers that Killion -- who now resides at a priest retirement facility in Washington, D.C. -- promised to give him better grades if he kept quiet about the sexual abuse.
Dalton said the abuse ended only when Killion was transferred to Philadelphia.
He said his clients were pleased with the resolution of the case, but like many other victims of priest sexual abuse, were more interested in getting the word out so others would not suffer the same fate than they were about the money.
"Without these cases and without these people standing up, safety measures that have been brought to bear to make children safer would never have happened," Dalton said.
In a statement, the Rev. James J. Greenfield, provincial of the Oblates, said the order remains "dedicated to healing and reconciliation. The settlement of these two cases is an important step in that direction."
"Our goals of moving forward were shared with both Mr. Mauro and Mr. Kramedas, and this helped to bring us to compromise. While we are pleased that these cases are settled, we recognize that healing the pain caused by any sort of abuse remains a top priority," he said.
Meanwhile, Engelhardt, who worked at Salesianum from 1977 to 1983 as a teacher and later dean of students, is accused in Philadelphia of assaulting a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome Parish during the 1998-99 school year.
According to the grand jury report, Engelhardt gave his victim sacramental wine on one occasion and showed him pornography before molesting him, telling the boy it was time "to become a man."
Church officials said that after leaving positions in Philadelphia, Engelhardt was assigned to St. Anthony of Padua in Wilmington from 2005 to 2007.
The Oblates said Engelhardt was removed from his ministry in January 2009 pending the outcome of the Philadelphia District Attorney's investigation.
"Father Engelhardt strongly denies these charges and claims his innocence. Prior to this incident, there had never been a complaint against Father Engelhardt in his more than 40 years of Oblate life," according to a statement from the Oblates.
"I feel deep concern both for the man claiming this abuse and for Father Engelhardt," Greenfield said. "The protection of children does not need to compete with our respect for a man's reputation. While we work hard to ensure that every child with whom we work is safe, we also honor the dignity of any man claiming to be innocent. In this case, it is our hope the facts will bring the truth to light."
The advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called for church officials to aggressively spread the word in Wilmington about the allegations against Engelhardt and beg those with information to contact police.
"Child predators virtually never strike just once," said Judith Miller of SNAP. "We are gravely concerned for children in Philadelphia and Delaware, where Engelhardt was assigned as recently as 2007."
Wilmington Diocese spokesman Bob Krebs referred questions about Engelhardt to the Oblates but said charges against him were mentioned during services at St. Anthony's over the weekend, putting parishioners on notice.
Greenfield, in his statement, encouraged anyone who has been sexually exploited or abused by a priest or anyone else to report it to law enforcement.
Contact Sean O'Sullivan at 324-2777 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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