Alleged Delbarton Abuse Victim Files Lawsuit, Asks to Be Released from Gag Order
By Kevin Manahan
June 30, 2012
|Steve Badt claims he was abused by Rev. TImothy Brennan, a teacher at Delbarton high school, as he speaks to the media as Delbarton accusers hold a press conference outside the Morris County Courthouse in Morristown on Tuesday June 5, 2012. Ed Murray/The Star-Ledger |
He stood six feet from the microphone on the lawn of the Morris County Courthouse Friday, his wife’s hand clasped and his lips clenched as others spoke of him in the third person.
And when it was time to be heard, he didn’t even read his own statement.
His real name protected, he is known as "John Doe" in a civil lawsuit filed Friday, and as victim "W.P.W. II" in a criminal plea signed by a sexually abusive monk 24 years ago.
The Rev. Timothy Brennan’s victim, now in his 40s and living on the West Coast, remains silent, attorney Greg Gianforcaro said, because when the man asked in 2002 to be released from a confidentiality agreement that came with a seven-figure settlement in 1988, lawyers for Delbarton School and St. Mary’s Abbey threatened him. They vowed to sue for the return of the money and to seek financial damages on top of that, if he spoke out, Gianforcaro said.
That fear remains today, because the Morris Township school and abbey, which runs the elite all-boys prep school, still refuse to "do the right thing," Gianforcaro said. For that reason, the victim Friday filed a lawsuit requesting to be released from the gag order.
"We are not seeking one dime," Gianforcaro said. "We want only for him to be released from the confidentiality clause so he can join others who have spoken out about abuse at Delbarton. This is not an allegation. This is a fact: He was sexually abused by Father Brennan, who confessed to the act."
Michael Critchley, attorney for abbey, said Friday that officials 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," he added.
Brennan pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual contact in 1987. Prosecutors said he showed the victim pornography and urged him to masturbate in front of the monk. The victim was between 13 and 15 at the time, court papers said.
Brennan was sentenced to six months in a facility for clergy sex offenders, a year’s probation and a $30 fine. Incarceration, court papers said, "would force an unnecessary hardship" on him. Asked several times, abbey officials have refused to reveal Brennan’s current whereabouts, saying he remains in the Benedictine order, where he can be supervised and kept from minors.
Patrick Marker, a victims advocate, said that while Brennan has confessed to one victim, Marker has been contacted by five other men who claim to have been abused by Brennan. They are mulling whether to come forward, he said.
Gianforcaro said the his client, who was represented by another attorney at the time of the settlement, wants Delbarton and abbey officials to live up to "promises of transparency" they have made in letters to students, parents and alumni. The victim also wants officials to abide by guidelines, adopted by the Catholic Church in 2002, that ban confidentiality agreements unless requested by sex-abuse victims. Brennan was an ordained priest.
"Since my client signed his agreement, policies have changed regarding clergy abuse," Gianforcaro said.
In his statement, read by Gianforcaro, the victim said that when he had a "difficult time fitting in" as a ninth-grader at Delbarton, "my parents encouraged me to seek out help from one of the freshman guidance counselors, Father Timothy Brennan."
He asked the school and abbey to release all victims from "gag orders," to reveal "all known incidents of pedophilia and inappropriate sexual behavior" that have occurred at Delbarton, and to "stop ex-communicating members of the Delbarton community who are brave enough to come forward."
Mark Crawford, state director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called confidentiality agreements in clergy sex-abuse cases "immoral."
"When a victim comes forward, he’s not able to make sound judgments," Crawford said. "It’s not fair to dangle a settlement and say, ‘We need a confidentiality agreement.’ Later, many victims regret signing and feel as though they’re complicit in the silence and coverup."