Suit claims more abuse by late Goshen priest
By Heather Yakin
January 03, 2020
GOSHEN — A man who attended St. John Catholic School and the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Goshen during the tenure of notorious pedophile priest the Rev. Edward Pipala has filed suit against the Archdiocese of New York, the church and the school.
The lawsuit charges that Pipala victimized the plaintiff, John Figliaccone, during his seventh- and eighth-grade years. The suit, filed in Supreme Court in New York County on Figliaccone’s behalf by lawyer James Monroe of Dupee & Monroe, charges that Pipala sexually assaulted and molested more than 50 boys during his time at St. John, spanning from July 2, 1988, through July 10, 1992.
Pipala’s abuses came to light when a family came forward, leading to Pipala’s prosecution and conviction on state and federal charges for raping, sodomizing and otherwise abusing boys he had plied with alcohol, pills, cigarettes and pornography as part of a secret “club” he called “the Hole.” He ran the same “club” during his time as an associate pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Monroe from 1981-1988.
The suit was filed under New York’s Child Victims Act, enacted in 2019, which includes a one-year window for past victims of child sexual abuse to sue their abusers and the institutions that employed them. The suit charges the archdiocese, school and parish with assorted negligence, fraud, infliction of emotional distress and statutory conspiracy, arguing that their actions constituted a conspiracy to allow Pipala to commit his crimes, and that they failed to protect the children in their charge from him.
Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, issued this statement: “The Archdiocese of New York continues it efforts to reach out to victim-survivors of abuse, including making available our Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, and to do all that we can to prevent such abuse from ever happening again, which includes safe environment training and criminal background checks for all those who work or volunteer with minors. However, we are not commenting on individual lawsuits at this time.”
Pipala went to prison after prosecution by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. The cases revealed that the archdiocese knew of Pipala’s pedophilia by 1977: That was when two brothers at Moore Catholic High School in Staten Island, where Pipala taught from 1975-1977, reported that Pipala molested and raped them.
Pipala admitted his guilt. The archdiocese sent him for treatment, then assigned him to the Church of St. Joseph in Croton Falls, with strict supervision and a ban on contact with children. The lawsuit says that a young man reported to the archdiocese that Pipala had molested him inside the St. Joseph’s parish.
“The horrible acts perpetrated against these children are only equaled by the church’s decision not to take action against this priest,” Monroe said. “What police agency, what private corporation, what not-for-profit would hang on to an employee they knew was a sexual predator?”
In 1981, the archdiocese transferred Pipala to Sacred Heart. Among other duties, he ran the youth programs, giving him the access he needed to start “the Hole.” By 1984 he began campaigning for a full pastorship, applying for multiple positions without success. Then, in 1988, the archdiocese appointed him pastor at St. John in Goshen.
And there, the complaint says, Pipala ingratiated himself with families, seeking out boys who were vulnerable or in need of guidance, and indoctrinating them into “the Hole” for abuses that included “violent, sadistic rape” by Pipala. One of them was Figliaccone, a special education student who was bullied by his peers. He was 12 when Pipala befriended him in the fall of 1989.
The suit says that Figliaccone has suffered emotional and mental suffering, a loss of faith, alcohol and drug dependency and has attempted suicide because of the abuse.
Pipala was released from federal prison in 2000, was defrocked in 2005 and died in 2013.