Family Assails Priest, Diocese
By W. T. Eckert
April 26, 2012
|In a press conference held on the sidewalk in front of the Albany Diocesan Headquarters, Ivan Morales Sr. talked about his two sons, Martin and Ivan Jr, who were allegedly sexually abused by Father Jeremiah Nunan. Martin Morales is filing a civil lawsuit against Nunan, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and Sacred Heart Church in Cairo. Photo by W.T. Eckert |
Alleged sexual abuse, apparent hush money and a lawsuit from a 23-year-old inmate were brought to the front steps of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Tuesday.
Supporters of 23-year-old Martin Morales gathered in the front yard of the Albany Diocesan headquarters Tuesday afternoon to rally against the alleged sexual abuse the former Cairo altar boy and his brother, New York State Trooper Ivan Morales Jr., experienced at the hands of Father Jeremiah Nunan.
Martin Morales filed a civil suit against Nunan for alleged sexual abuse that took place while he was between the ages of 7 and 12 during the years of 1996 and 2003. The alleged abuse then continued for a series of another five years between 2006 and 2011.
The family of Martin Morales, his attorney, J. Michael Reck, and advocates against abuse by priests held a press conference to talk about Nunan’s alleged history of sexual abuse, its impact on Martin Morales, who is currently behind bars as a fugitive for the attempted kidnapping and murder of his 23-year-old ex-girlfriend in March 2011.
Ivan Morales Sr., Martin’s father, said he learned about the alleged abuse in January 2011 through separate conversations and it was after Morales’ arrest that it all surfaced.
“But I had an inclination that something was drastically wrong with this priest,” Morales said, “because Martin’s behavior was not in line with my oldest son and daughter.”
Martin’s oldest brother Ivan Morales Jr. is a New York State Trooper and his sister, Maria, was a valedictorian and Morales Sr. said they would attend church constantly.
Maria stood by her father’s side. Ivan Jr. was not in attendance, Ivan Sr. said, because he had a last minute work conflict.
“We were at every mass,” Ivan Sr. said. “We formed a friendship with priest Nunan but the more that Martin associated with him, I just noticed that there was something very eerie about their relationship, very eerie.”
One example Ivan Sr. gave of that relationship was how Nunan took him to Empire Baseball games on Sundays. He said it was like Nunan was “wining and dining” his youngest son.
“And Martin was visiting the rectory constantly,” Ivan Sr. said, “and it came to a head when I located these checks. I confronted priest Nunan and he refused to acknowledge my concerns.”
Morales Sr. said he visited Nunan at the rectory, unannounced one evening, to confront the priest about a series of $500 checks payable to him from Nunan’s account. Morales said that when he asked Nunan about them, the priest went silent.
“I told him he was to stop giving Martin money,” Ivan Sr. said. “I would say that was in late January , at the rectory. He just didn’t say anything. I did tell him I was gong to get down to the bottom of it and that is how I started researching these checks.”
Photocopies of checks drawn from Nunan’s account First Niagara bank show Martin Morales as the recipient of a Feb. 11, 2010 check for $2,500 and a March 24, 2010 check for $3,000. One Dec. 2, 2010 check written out to cash for $500 and two checks, one dated Jan. 8, 2011 and another dated Jan. 11, 2011 written out to Ivan Morales Sr. for $500 were also drawn from Nunan’s personal account.
Joelle Casteix, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) Western Regional Director and survivor of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church said this story also has a very modern twist.
She said allegations first came forward about Father Nunan in 2006. At that time, Nunan absconded to Ireland where he hid until the victim in that case, Father Mark Jaufmann, died, Casteix said, and the case was dropped.
“That’s when the he came back and that is when he started abusing Martin again,” Casteix said. “As a part of that abuse, Father Nunan wrote a series of checks for thousands of dollars … which came, we can only assume, from the coffers of the church. Where does it come from? Where does a priest who vows poverty get a hold of checks for thousands and thousands of dollars? We don’t know.”
As a result of the alleged abuse that led Martin to his current situation behind bars.
“I attribute his downfall and legal problems totally to the abuse,” Ivan Sr. said, adding that the night before the event in Vermont that placed his son behind bars, Martin had a long visit and conversation with Nunan at the rectory.
“It involved a direct relationship between Nunan and Martin,” Ivan Sr. said, “that involved the mind games that he forced upon Martin with money that night. It is a complicated situation.”
When Martin told one of his friends about the abuse last year, that friend decided to post it on Facebook. “Martin Morales was molested by Father Jeremiah Nunan and sits in jail while Father Nunan walks free,” the post read.
“The Diocese of Albany has made a public promise that they would immediately report all allegations of abuse,” Casteix said, “but instead, what they did was they wrote a letter to the person … and instead of saying, ‘please give us information, we want to report this, ‘The victim’s assistance coordinator in the Diocese of Albany instead decided that it was something that they would not investigate and that it was the responsibility of this friend to report to the authorities.”
Kenneth Goldfarb, Director of Communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany said The Albany Roman Catholic Diocese notified law enforcement authorities on the very day that it received an allegation of sexual abuse against the Rev. Jeremiah Nunan.
”The Diocese notified Greene County District Attorney Terry J. Wilhelm on April 4, 2012,” Goldfarb said, “after being served with notice of a civil lawsuit accusing Nunan of sexual abuse. Nunan was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.”
Goldfarb said the Diocese began pursuing information last December when it learned from Rev. Nunan himself that an individual had accused Nunan of sexual abuse on a Facebook page.
”The one-sentence Facebook post contained no supporting information,” Goldfarb said, “so the Diocesan Assistance Coordinator wrote to the owner of the Facebook page urging him to contact law enforcement authorities or the Diocese immediately so that an investigation could be undertaken.”
The owner of the Facebook page did not respond to the Diocese, Goldfarb said, nor, to the best of the Diocese’s knowledge, did he contact any law enforcement agency.
The Diocese took the further step of questioning Nunan at the time. He denied the allegation.
“For Martin and Ivan, their criminal statute of limitations has passed,” Casteix said, “but by coming out here today, this brave family has made it safe for a young victim to come forward and maybe that young victim can provide evidence that can put a predator behind bars.”
The civil statute of limitations is the number one way that victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have been able to get justice, Casteix said. The SNAP director, herself, was able to successfully file a lawsuit against her perpetrator in 2003 and as a part of that, got more than 200 pages of documentation which included a signed confession from her perpetrator and documents by school and church officials saying they knew about the abuse and never reported it.
“That is the same kind of information that the Morales family can get,” Casteix said. “That is the same time of justice and information that victims in New York can get if the statute of limitations is changed. It is a tremendous tool to shine the light of transparency where it has been so dark and crimes have been allowed to flourish.”
Robert M. Hoatson, an advocate for Road to Recovery, a nonprofit charity that has supplied counsel and support to the Morales family for the last year said that the statute isn’t yet up for Martin.
“Martin Morales just turned 23 on April 1,” Hoatson said, “so these allegations fall, we believe, within the statute both criminally and civilly.”
That is one of the reasons one of the reasons attorney J. Michael Reck is pursuing a civil lawsuit, Hoatson said, because it is within the statute and he said he was hoping that Greene County District Attorney Terry Wilhelm will do the same on the criminal side.
Reck said that the case has to do with Morales as a child.
“Part of the reason he is where he is today is because of the abuse that Father Nunan perpetrated on him,” Reck said, “both as a child and immediately before his own incident. So what you are seeing here today, just in our opinion, is the result of what happened to him as a kid.”
Reck said there is a certain distinction between Martin and his older brother: The older brother is unable to pursue a lawsuit as Martin is because he is simply too old. This whole suit is about accountability, Reck said.
“That is why Ivan Morales Jr. agreed to come forward with his allegations as well,’ Reck said. “There is no criminal prosecution for him because he is too old. There is no lawsuit for him because he is too old. He is here simply because he has allowed us to use his allegations because he simply seeks some kind of accountability and some way to keep this man out of ministry. He was in ministry until last week.”
Reck said Morales’ coming forward with the allegations against Nunan now, at 23 years old, after two bouts of abuse is considered very young for someone to be able to even speak about abuse of this nature.
“So this is, in fact, a situation where someone was able to come forward in time to pursue his rights, which is, by far, in this state, the acceptation, not the norm. We are actually really proud of him for being able to talk about it this early.”
Martin’s sister, 20-year-old sister, Maria, was never abused by Nunan, but she said there were memories of things that didn’t seem right with the relationship between Nunan and Martin.
“I remember the first time I alter served,” Maria said, “he told me to go into the other room, the one with the confessional in it, because he wanted to help Martin get dressed and I really didn’t think anything of it at the time because I was just so young, but now that I put two and two together, something is just not right.”
Maria said as she got older she became more suspicious as Martin was invited back to the rectory time and again, witnessing her brother make repeated visits to the rectory while he was asked by Nunan to wait out in the car.
“Then one time he came out with a signed bible addressed to me,” Maria said, “and he said it was a present for me being so cooperative and staying out in the car. I just feel so betrayed. You are supposed to trust these people and they ruin your life.
The youngest of the Moraleses said she wanted Nunan to understand one thing out of all of this.
“I would just like him to know that my brother’s life is destroyed because of him,” Maria said. “It’s never going to be the same.”
To reach reporter W. T. Eckert, call 518-943-2100, ext. 3325, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org