As a teen, this former Delbarton student trusted a priest. Then came the alleged sex abuse
By Abbott Koloff
North Jersey Record
July 29, 2019
T.M. says he was 15 years old when a priest served him beers at a New Year’s Eve party, and when he awoke hours later he found the cleric sexually abusing him in a maintenance barn on the Delbarton School campus in Morris Township.
T.M., as court records call him, says that more than a year later, he wrote a letter about the abuse to Abbot Brian Clarke, then head of St. Mary’s Abbey and the Order of St. Benedict of New Jersey, the Roman Catholic religious order that runs Delbarton.
He also met the abbot, who told him to keep the accusations to himself because it could cause him problems with friends at Delbarton. He was told that the priest — Richard Edward Lott — would be reined in to keep other boys safe.
Decades later, T.M. learned that another student was allegedly abused by Lott — just months after T.M.'s own meeting to alert the abbot about the priest. The other student’s accusation was made in a 2005 lawsuit, which was settled in 2006, according to records.
“I feel now you’re taking advantage of a kid, taking advantage of my naivete,” T.M. said in a recent phone interview. “I wanted to make sure they knew what happened so no one else would ever be abused.
"They lied to me,” he said.
T.M.'s lawsuit, which is ongoing, is one of at least 14 that have been filed against the Benedictine order by 15 people alleging that they, too, were abused by monks as children decades ago when they attended Delbarton or a Catholic school in Linden run by the order. T.M. asked that his name not be used, to protect his parents from public exposure and being questioned about the allegations.
During an alumni reunion in December 2013, someone asked T.M. why he hadn’t been to other Delbarton functions. He had been reading about lawsuits brought by several men — including twin brothers Tom and Bill Crane — who said they were abused by Benedictine priests. He responded by referring to those reports.
“I was one of them,” he said.
St. Mary's has settled eight lawsuits since last year, the latest last month. Three are still pending in Superior Court. At least nine monks, including seven priests, have been named in lawsuits over the years or have been acknowledged by abbey officials as having been accused of sex abuse.