$300M Priest Sex Suit in B'Klyn

By Scott Shifrel
Daily News
October 2, 2003

Just days before it greets a new bishop, the Diocese of Brooklyn was slapped with a $300 million suit alleging widespread sex abuse by its clergy.

The complaint names two dozen priests who allegedly molested young boys and girls in incidents going back decades.

"It was tolerated and facilitated by the diocese," charged Michael Dowd, a lawyer who filed the suit in Queens Supreme Court on behalf of 26 men and women who claim they were abused as children.

"It is a diocese that is covering up the sexual misconduct of a significant number of priests even as we speak," he added.

A similar suit filed against a dozen priests in Brooklyn and Queens was dismissed last year because the abuse cases were decades old and beyond the statute of limitations.

Dowd and other lawyers in the case say the diocese's attempts to hide the abuse continue, and should not be subject to the statute of limitations.

A spokesman for the diocese declined comment on the suit yesterday, saying officials had not seen the complaint.

Plaintiffs still suffer

Among the priests accused of wrongdoing is the Rev. James Smith, who worked for the domestic violence unit of the Queens district attorney's office until he was placed on administrative leave in April 2002.

Plaintiffs Barbara Schmidt and George O'Brian said they were abused by Smith while he was assigned to parishes in Whitestone and Howard Beach, Queens, in the 1960s and '70s.

The Rev. James Frost is accused by a former altar boy of abusing him 200 to 300 times at Holy Innocence Church in Brooklyn. Frost served at parishes in Brooklyn and Queens in the 1970s and '80s.

Many of the victims claim the abuse led to intimacy problems and contributed to divorces.

The suit comes as Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens prepare for the arrival of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzo, who will be installed as the sixth head of the diocese tomorrow at a Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Sunset Park.

DiMarzo succeeds retiring Bishop Thomas Daily, who is accused of covering up the abuse. The suit was filed a little more than a week after one of the plaintiffs, Dennis Brown, apparently committed suicide by drinking antifreeze.


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