Third Abuse Lawsuit Filed against Priest
By Noaki Schwartz
Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
May 29, 2002
A third former altar boy has come forward claiming that a local priest now living in a long-term center for troubled clergy molested him from 1976 to 1978.
Thomas Murphy, 36, filed a lawsuit against the Miami Archdiocese and the Rev. Ronald John Luka in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court on Tuesday. This latest suit against the priest claims Luka kissed and fondled the 14-year-old, forcing the boy to reciprocate during sleepovers. Murphy was a student at St. Helen Catholic School, where Luka was then working.
The 65-year-old priest was a member of the Claretian Missionaries based in Chicago, but in 1976 arrived at St. Helen, a private school owned by the Miami Archdiocese.
Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, would not comment on ongoing lawsuits but previously said Luka reported directly to the Claretian Missionaries.
Two weeks ago, Stephen Calvert and Scott Melanson filed a similar lawsuit in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.
"They all went to school together," said attorney Joel Magolnick, who represents all three plaintiffs. "[Murphy] never told anyone."
Calvert, however, told his mother, who spoke to then-head priest the Rev. Patrick Murnane. The pastor "promised to take appropriate action," Magolnick said. At the beginning of the next school year, Luka was gone. The suit alleges that "the archdiocese intentionally moved Luka out of the jurisdiction in order to avoid public scandal and criminal prosecution."
Although Murnane was Luka's supervisor, he did not tell the Claretian Missionaries about the allegations, according to Richard Leamy, who represents the religious order.
After leaving St. Helen, Luka visited a different parish every week for years. In 1999, the Claretian Missionaries received their first allegations of misconduct against Luka. The Claretians sent Luka to a treatment center in Maryland called St. Luke's Institute.
They eventually decided Luka should be permanently removed from public ministry. He now resides at a long-term center in Missouri called the Wounded Brothers Project, which treats pedophilia, alcoholism and drug addiction.
Noaki Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-810-5004.
CORRECTION PUBLISHED FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2002.
A headline published Wednesday on page 4B incorrectly stated the number of lawsuits against the Rev. Ronald John Luka in Miami-Dade County. Two lawsuits have been filed.
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