Abuse Victim Asks Delbarton to End Enforced Silence
By Peggy Wright
June 29, 2012
|Attorney Gregory G. Gianforcaro, seen here speaking in March, is asking Delbarton School to allow a former student to speak about his confidential agreement regarding an assault by a former monk. / KATHY JOHNSON/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER|
A man who was sexually abused by a Delbarton School monk when he was a student in 1984 joined victim’s advocates Friday in calling upon leaders of the school to be “transparent and open” about misconduct by its monks and to allow him to speak freely about a confidential lawsuit settlement he reached with St. Mary’s Abbey in 1988.
Attorney Gregory G. Gianforcaro, who already represents four men who have accused Delbarton monks in a lawsuit of sexually exploiting them while they were students in the 1980s, held a news conference on the lawn of state Superior Court in Morristown to announce another lawsuit — this one seeking no monetary damages — against the school and St. Mary’s Abbey.
Speaking on behalf of a man who was at the conference but referred to as John Doe, Gianforcaro said he has filed a complaint in Superior Court to get a confidentiality clause section of a 1988 settlement agreement between the victim, Delbarton and St. Mary’s lifted. The victim, who was abused as a freshman when he sought counseling from the Rev. Timothy Brennan, then a guidance counselor and theology instructor, wants the freedom to speak about his experience and to support other victims, Gianforcaro said.
The former student in 2002 tried through another attorney to get Delbarton officials to voluntarily waive the confidentiality provisions of the settlement. His attempt occurred after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a charter that called for dioceses to “reach out to victims/survivors and their families and demonstrate a sincere commitment to their spiritual and emotional well-being.” In 2002, the Rev. Thomas J. Confroy, then-president of Delbarton and the abbot of St. Mary’s Abbey, also sent a letter to parents, alumni and trustees that detailed steps the school had taken to ensure the safety of its students.
But the ex-student’s request for freedom to talk about the settlement was met in 2002 with a threat, according to Gianforcaro, who read from a letter that a lawyer for Delbarton sent to the requester’s attorney in 2002.
“We will vigorously seek to enforce the provisions (of the settlement) and we will demand, and I do so now in this letter, that if you or your clients attempt to disclose publicly any of the provisions of the 1988 settlement … you and your firm and your clients will be held personally responsible for any harm or damages caused to St. Mary’s Abbey,” the 2002 letter said.
Gianforcaro said: “I ask everyone who is listening today … how does threatening one of their former students advance the goals” of the charter?”
At the news conference, Gianforcaro read from an initial comment he received Friday from St. Mary’s lawyer, Charles M. Carella, who said a few hours notice of the demand to lift the confidentiality clause was not sufficient time for his clients to make a decision.
“We are not saying no and we are not saying yes,” Carella told Gianforcaro. After the conference, Carella and attorney Michael Critchley released a further statement: “The Abbey received the request within the last 24 hours. We are willing to consider the request and will attempt to convene over the next few days, despite the current unavailability of Abbot Giles (Hayes) due to medical issues.”
Brennan in 1987 pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual contact on the then-15-year-old student in 1984, admitting that his conduct involved getting the youth to expose himself. He was put on probation for a year and received treatment at an out-of-state facility. According to Delbarton, Brennan, now 72, has not been an active part of the monastic community for 25 years and is living at “a secure facility” where he has no contact with the general public.
Advocates of people abused by clergy were at the news conference, including supporter Patrick Marker and Mark Crawford, New Jersey director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
“It’s totally immoral today to be asking for confidentiality from a victim,” Crawford said. “This is a classic example of trying to protect the institution rather than the victim.”