Delbarton School ...
By Phil Garber
December 11, 2012
MENDHAM – To Bill Crane, a lawsuit filed by St., Mary’s Abbey and the Delbarton School against his lawyer is one more tactic of intimidation in the ongoing battle by Crane and others to uncover victims who were sexually assaulted by priests at the school.
The former Mendham resident knows about the subject. He and his twin brother Tom, 46, filed a lawsuit in March alleging that they were sexually abused as youngsters by the Rev. Luke Travers, a former Delbarton headmaster, and the Rev. Justin Capato, a former Delbarton teacher.
Last month, Delbarton filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Morristown claiming Crane’s lawyer, Gregory Gianforcaro of Phillipsburg, violated a confidentiality agreement by publicly disclosing terms of a 1988 settlement of a lawsuit filed by a teenager who was a victim of sexual misconduct by a monk at the school.
A terse statement from St. Mary’s Abbey was released.
“St. Mary’s Abbey will not have any comments regarding the legal case recently filed involving attorney Gregory Gianforcaro,” the statement said.
“The complaint filed with the courts clearly explains the rationale for this action. However, we will say that we often hear quotes from Mr. Gianforcaro that there are consequences for wrongdoing. In this case, he will have to deal with the consequences of his own behavior.”
Michael Critchley, the Delbarton lawyer, did not return a call and email for comment.
The suit, filed by the Order of St. Benedict of New Jersey, alleges that Gianforcaro violated an agreement made with the teen’s previous attorney involving the settlement.
It claims that Ginaforcaro is trying to “advance (his) own financial interests by attempting to improperly inflate the value of cases (he) has pending” against Delbarton and by trying to attract additional clients.
The suit came after Gianforcaro had held a news conference in Morristown to discuss the victim’s lawsuit asking that he be released from the confidentiality agreement. In its suit, Delbarton threatened to demand return of the settlement whose terms have not been announced publicly and for other penalties.
Gianforcaro represents the victim who filed the 1988 lawsuit. He also represents the Cranes and four other men who sued this year alleging sexual abuse and/or sexual misconduct by Delbarton monks.
Bill Crane said the lawsuit against Gianforcaro is aimed at chilling other victims of priests at Delbarton from making their stories public.
“It’s a desperate move by Delbarton,” said Bill Crane, who now lives in Washington State. “There has been a tremendous amount of intimidation.”
“This is nothing more than trying to intimidate the victims and the lawyers who represent them,” he said.
Being able to speak about past abuse is vital to recovery because a child who has been abused loses “all power and control.” Ginaforcaro said.
“When a victim musters up enough courage to come out and is force by a settlement to keep quite all it does is force him to have a lack of power and control. It’s an extension of the abuse,” Gianforcaro said.
Gianforcaro said the suit against Delbarton asks that the confidentiality agreement be stricken. He said the former victim is not seeking additional money.
“He is not asking for any money whatsoever,” Gianforcaro said. “This is just so he can speak about the matter.”
Gianforcaro said the lawsuit against him flies in the face of a vote by the U.S. Conference of Bishops at their 2002 conference in Dallas, Texas. The bishops included in the so-called Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People a measure to prohibit confidentiality restrictions in lawsuits against the Catholic Church. Delbarton subsequently agreed to abide by the confidentiality prohibition.
Though the 1988 Delbarton settlement predated the 2002 conference, Gianforcaro said the school should still live by its vow to prohibit confidentiality.
“Delbarton vowed to be transparent and open,” Gianforcaro said.
He also cited a July 5, 2002, letter from the Right Rev. Thomas Conroy, then president of Delbarton, who said, “While communication on these subjects is difficult, such efforts are essential for the preservation of trust and the long term reputation of the monastic and educational community.”
Gianforcaro’s client was between 13 and 15 when he was abused by the Rev. Timothy Brennan. Brennan pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct in 1987 and was sentenced to six months in a facility for clergy offenders, a year’s probation and a $30 fine. He remains a monk and lives in a facility where he is not to have contact with the general public, Delbarton officials said.
Gianforcaro said that soon after the 2002 letter from Delbarton, his client, who has not been identified, asked that the school withdraw the confidentiality clause in the 1988 settlement. Delbarton refused in the strongest of language.
“He was threatened that if he ever violated the terms of the confidentiality agreement that they would vigorously seek to enforce the provision of the confidentiality agreement,” Gianforcaro said. “And if there were any violations of the agreement (Delbarton) would hold my client personally responsible for any harm or damages to St. Mary’s Abbey.”