New Lawsuit Seeks Court Order Forcing Catholic Church to Disclose "Secret" Lists of Pedophile Priests and Brothers in New York
By Molly Crane-Newman and Nancy Dillon
New York Daily News
February 14, 2019
|Lawyer Jeff Anderson stands with survivors at a news conference on February 14, 2019 in Manhattan. Anderson announced the filing of a lawsuit naming the Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men for concealing the names of priests and brothers accused of molestation. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)|
A Manhattan native who says a priest repeatedly molested her – sometimes during games of strip poker – is among the plaintiffs in a new lawsuit demanding the names of all New York pedophile priests and brothers reported to the Catholic Church.
The lawsuit against the Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men was filed Thursday in Manhattan Supreme Court, the same day Gov. Cuomo signed into law the historic Child Victims Act.
The new law extends the criminal and civil statutes of limitations on sexual assault so victims, including victims of clergy sex abuse, have a new chance to seek justice and accountability decades later.
“For years I had hoped that something would change, so that I, and people like me, who have stayed silent, would finally see justice. Today, by filing this lawsuit, hopefully the truth about the perpetrators will come out,” plaintiff Bridget Lyons, 47, said as the lawsuit was announced.
Lyons was a 13-year-old girl living with her mom and 8-year-old brother in the East Village when Father Jack Kennington began molesting her in the 1980s, she says.
Kennington, who was a priest at Most Holy Redeemer in Manhattan, inappropriately touched her and her brother during massages and the secret card games, she and her family previously alleged.
“This abuse led to years of depression, PTSD, trust issues. …It also ruined my faith and trust in the Catholic Church,” she said Thursday at a press conference with her fellow plaintiffs and lawyer Jeff Anderson.
Lyons’ initial bid to sue Kennington in 1993 was rejected due to the statute of limitations, but her brother was allowed to file thanks to his younger age. The brother’s suit was settled for an undisclosed sum.
Attempts to reach Kennington, now 85 and living at the Redemptorist Fathers residence in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, were not immediately successful Thursday.
Lyons is one of five named plaintiffs in the new lawsuit. The group gathered with Anderson at Andaz Wall Street Hotel in lower Manhattan to demand full disclosure of all known offenders in the eight dioceses across New York.
Out of 120 religious orders called upon to release the identities of priests who sexually molested and raped children, only six have done so, Anderson said.
“Every religious order and every bishop is run by a superior, and they know who their offenders are — but they keep that secret,” Anderson said. “And because they have never released the names of those offenders, this suit is dedicated to getting a court order requiring them to come clean and disclose publicly the names that they know of the offenders.”
Anderson described the suit as part of a “comprehensive, nationwide legal effort” to force disclosure.
Plaintiff Darryl Bassile said he was a homeless teenager in 1973 when Father Bruce Ritter, the man who founded Covenant House youth shelter, took him in and began abusing him.
Bassile later tried to sue Ritter, Covenant House and the Conventual Franciscans — one of the defendants in the suit —in 1993, but the statute of limitations had run out for him as well, he said. Ritter died in 1999.
“At 14, what was I to do? Was I to say no? Was I to be put back on the streets?” Bassile asked Thursday. “I stayed, and I endured until I could go someplace else.”
Bassile said the abuse he suffered gave him PTSD and trust issues.
“You learn to live, but you never really find closure,” he told the Daily News.
He said his hope is that the new lawsuit brings greater transparency and stops repeat-predators from victimizing more children.
“If you’re gonna keep hiding these people, and you’re gonna keep shuffling them from place to place, what are we going to do?” he asked.
Plaintiff Mark Lyman was a teenager when he was sexually abused by New York priest Father Francis Genevieve between 1978 and 1982.
Genevieve pleaded guilty in 2008 to raping Lyman and other teens and was given a suspended sentence, placed on probation and ordered to register as a sex offender.
When Lyman filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts in 2004 against Genevieve, the Franciscans, the Dioceses of Albany and the Bishop of Albany, it was dismissed like the others.
In 2009, Lyman tried again, and the action was settled outside of court.
“I don’t want another child to have to go through what I went through, let alone decide to come forward and be denied justice,” Lyman said Thursday.
“By taking this action, we’re making it safer for children,” he said. “We need the conference to come forward and provide everything that they know — not just about the predators but about those who helped protect them.”
Anyone wishing to report a confidential tip regarding child sex abuse to the Daily News can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 210-1528.