The Teacher Vs. the Priest: S.i. Man, Now an Educator, Goes Public with Allegations against Monsignor Paddack
By Maura Grunlund
October 2, 2019
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- As a prominent priest and former principal, Monsignor John Paddack was a revered religious figure on Staten Island.
However, a Staten Island man -- himself now a teacher -- is one of several people to come forward with shocking allegations as four bombshell lawsuits accuse the priest of sexually abusing children during his time at St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School in Huguenot, Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx and Church of the Incarnation in Manhattan.
The disturbing allegations span his career moves from parish priest in the 1980s in Manhattan to school administrator on Staten Island in the early 2000s.
All of the victims are represented by Jeff Anderson & Associates and the lawsuits allege that the Archdiocese of New York allowed Monsignor Paddack to work in jobs where he had access to children even though it knew or should have known the priest had allegedly abused minors.
The allegations are not connected to his later career moves, and do not include his assignment as principal at Monsignor Farrell High School in Oakwood, where he served from 2002 until 2010, or the Church of Notre Dame in Manhattan, where he served as pastor until stepping down in July amid the allegations.
Joseph Caramanno, now 34 and a teacher at New Dorp High School, filed two of the lawsuits that name Monsignor Paddack as his alleged abuser. The Archdiocese of New York is a defendant in both lawsuits, one of which is based on the Child Victims Act. St. Joseph by-the-Sea is a defendant in only one of his lawsuits. Monsignor Paddack is not listed as a defendant in either filing.
Both of his filings describes the alleged abuse as “unpermitted sexual contact."
In the lawsuits, he claims the Archdiocese was “negligent” in placing the priest "in positions where he had access to and worked with children.”
“In addition to Plaintiff Caramanno, at least six other individuals have reported to Defendant Archdiocese that they were sexually abused as minors by Msgr. Paddack,” according to one of Caramanno’s lawsuits.
|Monsignor John Paddack (Staten Island Advance)|
Caramanno stood in front of St. Joseph by-the-Sea recently as he recounted the abuse that he allegedly suffered at the hands of Monsignor Paddack from 2001 to 2002 during school hours inside what then was Monsignor Paddack’s private office in the high school at 5150 Hylan Blvd.
Caramanno wonders if the archdiocese knew about indiscretions that allegedly happened prior to Monsignor Paddack’s assignment to St. Joseph by-the-Sea, where the priest served in various capacities, including academic dean and guidance counselor.
“It worries me because there are so many more questions than there are answers," Caramanno said. “They obviously put me in a room with him, literally, many times.”
The 2003 graduate of St. Joseph by-the-Sea said he was 16 years old and struggling emotionally from personal tragedies that included death and illness of loved ones coupled with the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks.
He went to Monsignor Paddack for counseling and to receive doses of prescribed medication that were kept in his office.
For over 15 years, Caramanno
“I had blocked it out for a long time and it wasn’t until many years later that I got more clarity on it," Caramanno said.
He first revealed the details to some of his students during a discussion about repressed memories in November 2017.
“It struck me and I said, ‘Wait a minute, when I was in high school I used to go to this priest for counseling," Caramanno recalled. “He used to keep my medication in his drawer. I used to go there for it and he used to touch me,” he alleged.
But still Caramanno thought, "there’s nothing that I can do about it now. I’ll just forget it.”
Caramanno had a change of heart after he saw an article about people accusing Monsignor Paddack of abuse similar to what he claims he experienced.
He said he went forward with his allegations, and Jeff Anderson & Associates sent a letter in March notifying the Richmond County district attorney’s office, but no charges were filed.
Caramanno met with investigators for the Archdiocese of New York in May, but grew concerned when he wasn’t given a firm timeline for when the probe would be completed.
“I did not have much faith in what happened with that interview with the investigators and it was up until July where he [Monsignor Paddack] was still in active ministry and it wasn’t until after a press conference ... where I went public ... that he reportedly voluntarily stepped down" from Notre Dame, Caramanno said.
Caramanno was spurred on by Monsignor Paddack’s alleged denials to reporters in a way that questioned Caramanno’s credibility after a news conference the alleged victim held with his attorney in June.
“So it really struck me on a personal level to be singled out and to be called a liar by him through some other reporters who had told me that they showed him a picture of me and he said he never saw me before. He said that I was lying.”
In a July 2 goodbye letter to parishioners, Monsignor Paddack said he would “not exercise any priestly ministry while allegations against him of inappropriate conduct with minors years ago are reviewed,” according to Catholic New York.
“I hope that the accountability and the transparency that we were promised is actually going to happen," said Caramanno, who still is waiting for the results of the archdiocesan investigation into his allegations. “I hope that this also shines light on the practices that should not be taking place, that the archdiocese should not be moving priests around and not revealing to the public the instances of priests that are accused repeatedly of misconduct with children.”
Caramanno said the incidents make it difficult for him to trust people and maintain relationships.
“There’s still so much with these encounters that I just don’t remember and that really frustrates me," Caramanno said. “Little things are coming back ... caramel candies on the desk with the cream center ... the scent of the cologne ... he used to call me ‘Yoey’ instead of Joey ... where he would sit and he would move ... his voice would change, like with a loud whisper.”
One of the Camaranno lawsuits claims that in about 2014, the Archdiocese of New York received a report that Monsignor Paddack sexually abused a child at Cardinal Hayes High School in about 1994.
An anonymous accuser, who is a former altar server at Incarnation, claims in another of the Jeff Anderson & Associates Child Victims Act lawsuits that he was abused by Monsignor Paddack when the priest worked both at Incarnation and Cardinal Hayes. The alleged indiscretions occurred when the child was 11 to 17 years old from 1987 to 1993.
Yet another anonymous accuser claims that Monsignor Paddack sexually abused him from 1998 through 2001 when the child was ages 11 to 14 and a parishioner at Incarnation.
The priest has denied the allegations.
“Nothing happened, believe me,“ Monsignor Paddack told a reporter in March. "I have a 50-year record of teaching. And it’s a good record, believe me. I think they’re seeing the advertisements on television and in the paper, and a chance to make money. Very sad, and it could ruin a reputation.”
“The Archdiocese of New York has been and will continue to carefully review the claims made in the various lawsuits that have been filed since the Child Victims Act went into effect last month,” said Joseph Zwilling, communications director for the Archdiocese of New York.
“At this point, we will not be commenting on those claims. We do, however, continue to invite people to consider our successful program to bring compensation quickly to qualified claimants through the archdiocesan Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.”
The Richmond County district attorney’s office declined to comment on its investigation into Camaranno’s claims.