Psychologist: Abusive Priest "a Well-oiled Machine"
By Edmund H. Mahony
February 1, 2012
A former altar boy suing the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford for sexual abuse by a priest presented psychological evidence in court Wednesday showing that he faces a lifetime of emotional disability because of the abuse.
Evidence about the victim's mental health led to a sharp, if brief disagreement over his relationship with the abusive priest, Father Ivan Ferguson.
Clinical psychologist David Johnson of New Haven testified that the victim, known in legal papers as Jacob Doe, suffers from chronic moderate post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic moderate depression.
The collective effect of the two disabilities — in particular diminished powers of concentration and detachment and estrangement from others — has left Doe with a 10 percent occupational disability, Johnson said.
Doe, a consultant who investigates fires and explosions, claims in his suit that Ferguson abused him repeatedly in the early 1980s from age 13 to 15 when Doe was a student at St. Mary's grammar school in Derby.
While Doe was making a case Wednesday to jurors that Ferguson has left him emotionally damaged and consumed by shame, the church's lawyer, Joseph Sitarz, phrased questions during his cross-examinations in a fashion that reminded jurors that Doe never physically resisted the abuse nor reported it to his parents.
In his opening statement to jurors, Sitarz argued that Doe "looked forward to" and "encouraged" what he described as a homosexual relationship.
Johnson, who examined Doe in connection with his suit, testified that he believes it is "a complete travesty" to suggest that a 13-year-old boy could consent to or enjoy a sexual relationship with an adult priest who was the director of his grammar school.
Doe's two witnesses Wednesday, Johnson and Doe's therapist, testified that they believe he was overwhelmed by Ferguson, who had consciously used his authority as an influential priest to insinuate himself into the boy's life.
Both witnesses said they believe Doe did not report the abuse for a variety of reasons. They said that, because of his ambivalent feelings toward Ferguson, Doe feared he would destroy the priest's career. They also said he was afraid of not being believed and of causing his parents anguish.
When he testified earlier in the trial, Doe said Ferguson told him he would be considered "gay" if he reported the abuse.
Johnson testified that he believes Ferguson, who died in 2002, probably abused numerous boys based on his interviews with Doe about the way the priest used his position in the church to entice and seduce Doe.
"He was very obviously a well-oiled machine," Johnson told Doe's lawyer, Thomas McNamara. "He had obviously done this many times before."
When Doe's therapist of four years, Susan McDuffy of Beacon Falls, testified, she became animated when McNamara directed her attention to testimony by a church psychiatrist who, McDuffy said, described Doe during a pretrial deposition "as being in love and infatuated" with Ferguson.
McDuffy appeared to disagree with the psychiatrist's suggestion in his deposition testimony that any emotional difficulty Doe experienced was the result of his being "outted" from a homosexual relationship.
Sitarz objected to McDuffy's characterization of the deposition, saying that the use of the word outted in the document was in the context of Doe having to testify in public as part of a priest abuse lawsuit.
McDuffy, watching the objection play out from her seat on the witness stand — and with no question to her pending — volunteered her view of the context in which the deposition remark was made.
"But I believe the words were also used — 'in love and infatuated,' " she said.
Superior Court Judge Kevin G. Dubay admonished McDuffy for speaking out of turn.
The psychiatrist was hired by the church to evaluate Doe prior to the trial. The psychiatrist wrote a report on his evaluation and later was questioned about the report during a deposition conducted by McNamara. Neither document was publically available Wednesday, and neither McNamara nor Sitarz would elaborate on them.
The psychiatrist may testify as a witness for the church later in the trial.
Any effect abuse may have had on Doe's mental health or his ability to earn a living could be a factor in a jury award.
Doe's suit contends that the archdiocese could have prevented his abuse if it had acted on an earlier abuse complaint against Ferguson by the mother of two boys in the Tariffville section of Simsbury.
During a March 1979 meeting with former Archbishop John F. Whealon, Ferguson admitted abusing the Tariffville boys. Doe's suit contends that the archbishop and others knew of Ferguson's pedophilia but kept it secret and failed to control the abusive priest.