|Update: Suit Not Filed against Archdiocese
By Patti Mengers
March 30, 2011
Attorneys canceled their plan today to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on behalf of family members of a Bucks County man who they said committed suicide after archdiocesan officials dismissed his allegations of clerical sexual abuse.
Attorney Jeff Anderson, an internationally-known expert in sexual abuse litigation based in St. Paul, Minn., said he could not comment on why the plan to file the lawsuit had been canceled or whether it would be filed at a later date.
The man, who was 36 when he died, was allegedly molested by the Rev. Joseph Gallagher while he was an altar boy at St. Mark parish in Bristol, Bucks County. Gallagher served as assistant pastor at the former St. Michael's Church in Chester from June 1970 until October 1974.
Now retired, Gallagher was last listed by archdiocesan officials as pastor emeritus at St. Richard parish in Northeast Philadelphia since October 2006. He is currently relieved of his priestly duties and living in a private residence while an archdiocesan team led by former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Gina Maisto Smith, reviews the sexual abuse allegations.
He was among 24 priests suspended last month by archdiocesan officials after they were mentioned as suspects in a Philadelphia grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse of children. The grand jury accused archdiocesan officials of downplaying at least two complaints that Gallagher molested boys including one identified as "Ben" whose family was expected to file the wrongful death suit today. According to the grand jury report, Ben committed suicide after archdiocesan officials dismissed his abuse allegations that he made to them in 2007.
Attorneys Dan Monahan of Chester County and Marci Hamilton of Bucks County are working in conjunction with Anderson. They are also representing Frank Finnegan of Collingdale in a lawsuit against archdiocesan officials in connection with alleged abuse when he was a boy at St. Francis Xavier parish, Philadelphia, by the now-late Rev. John Kline.
The recent grand jury investigation, that was launched by District Attorney Seth Williams, resulted in the Feb. 10 arrest of two priests, one former priest and a former Catholic school lay teacher for sexually assaulting two boys in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Also arrested for endangering the welfare of children was the Rev. Monsignor William Lynn, who, as secretary of the clergy under the former Philadelphia archbishop, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, was responsible for investigating clerical sexual abuse. He is reportedly the highest ranking U.S. church official ever charged with child endangerment.
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