5 Ex-Altar Boys Sue Archdiocese, Bevilacqua
Allege They Were Sexually Abused by Priests
By Nicole Weisensee Egan
Philadelphia Daily News
January 31, 2004
Father Gerard Chambers allegedly preyed on three brothers and made them his personal sex toys.
Father Joseph Gausch is accused of beginning his assault on one of his victims as he was setting up for Mass, allegedly putting his hand down the boy's pants and groping his privates.
And Father Richard G. Jones allegedly moved his teenage victim into his home, showed him off as his "adopted son" and made him part of what he called a "Charismatic Community" of priests and lay persons that promoted homosexual and pedophilic behavior, according to court documents filed yesterday.
The victims were all easy marks, good-looking, intelligent altar boys with personal problems who trusted their priests and viewed them as pseudo-father figures.
All five yesterday filed three civil suits in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua accusing both of covering up the priests' behavior. The suit names 17 other priests that the attorneys said the church knew sexually abused minors. The lawsuits ask for both punitive and compensatory damages.
The victims said they filed the lawsuits not just seeking money but answers and accountability.
"This kid here, his life was stolen," said Jim Dolan, now 37, who held up two pictures of himself at age 14 and 15, when he said he was abused by Father Gausch at Good Shepherd Church at 66th Street and Chester Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia.
"It's pretty hard when your own parents don't believe you were raped by a priest."
To this day they don't believe him and refused to attend yesterday's news conference at the Radnor Hotel in St. Davids, he said.
"It really hurts inside when your own parents can't be here," said Dolan, who spoke haltingly and barely held back tears. "I went from the life of a little kid to a life of hell. I still go through it everyday of my life, struggling."
Catherine Rossi, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, released a statement noting that Gausch and Chambers are now deceased, and Father Jones "has not been in active ministry for many years." She would not elaborate on Jones' situation and could not respond to specific allegations because the archdiocese has not read the suit.
In February 2002, Bevilacqua announced there were "credible allegations" of sexual abuse against 35 priests in the past half century. He would not name them but said none were still active. Rossi would not say if Gausch, Jones and Chambers were among those 35.
The alleged victims, who are represented by Richard Serbin of Altoona and Jay Abramowitch of Wyomissing, Berks County, said they hoped going public would give others the courage to come forward.
"The healing starts with sharing your brokenness," said John McDonnell, 60, who had to stop several times to maintain his composure. "Me coming forward has brought me further from the darkness and isolation."
McDonnell said he, his older brother, Alex, and younger brother, Brian, were 13, 14 and 12 when Chambers began abusing them at St. Gregory's Church at 52nd and Warren streets. The abuse went on from 1957 through 1959, their civil suit says.
Chambers fondled them, had them fondle him and anally raped or attempted to anally rape all three of them on church property, the complaint alleges.
McDonnell said he met with the archdiocese before filing the civil suit. He asked them to pay for the housing and psychiatric care for his brother Brian, who has been a mental wreck for 25 years because of the alleged abuse. Brian is at Norristown State Hospital. The church refused, he said.
"My brother is a year younger than me and he looks like he's 25 years older," he said, admitting he had contemplated suicide himself many times since he was abused.
At one of the meetings he had with the archdiocese, McDonnell got them to give him a list of the different places Chambers was during his tenure. That paperwork was filed as an exhibit to his suit. The document said that by the time Chambers arrived at his church, he'd already had five health leaves and had been assigned to 12 parishes over 24 years.
"In my own calculation, the longest assignment this priest had in any one parish over a 30-year priesthood was 28 months, which is just an immediate flag that there's something wrong here," he said.
Chambers' assignment just before coming to his church was at St. Francis Orphanage in Orwigsburg in the Poconos, McDonnell added.
"And that is where some of the abuse that happened to me occurred," he said, pausing to fight off tears. "He took me to the Pocono mountains to that male orphanage. He was like a kid in a candy store in a male orphanage with his problem."
Dolan and McDonnell had been accompanied by a man who wanted to be identified only as "Christopher," who is also 37. He did not speak, but his civil suit said he was 15 and a student at Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, Delaware County, when Father Jones, a priest and counselor at the school, spotted him in 1980. Jones eventually "coerced" Christopher into living with him at his nearby church-owned residence, the suit says.
Jones allegedly started out by fondling Christopher's genitals, telling him the purpose was to get the teen to trust him. The sexual abuse escalated until Jones raped and sodomized Christopher, even as he was passing him off to other priests at the high school as his "adopted son," the suit alleges.
In December, Philadelphia's new cardinal, Justin Rigali, announced he had dismissed four priests for sexual abuse. Two of them taught at Cardinal O'Hara High School. One of them, the Rev. John Cannon, was there with Jones. *
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