Sex-Abuse Suit Filed Vs. Priest

By Gloria Campisi
Philadelphia Daily News
May 18, 2004

Walter Daly put it behind him.

But his alleged abuse as a child by a priest at Camp St. Monica ate at him throughout his adult life, Daly's lawyer said.

"He dealt with it himself, or tried to," said Stewart J. Eisenberg, who has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Daly and his wife, Jean, against the Philadelphia Archdiocese, St. Monica's Church in South Philadelphia and the Rev. John Cannon, the alleged abuser.

Eisenberg said that in the late '50s and early '60s, when the abuse is alleged to have occurred, campers at the church's Berks County summer camp called Cannon "Poison Ivy" for the way he crept through the camp at night searching for his victims.

The Daly lawsuit seeks in excess of $500,000. It was filed Thursday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

Spokeswoman Cathy Rossi said the archdiocese had not reviewed the lawsuit but noted it involved "allegations that occurred decades ago.

"The diocesan priest named in the suit, Father John Cannon, is no longer in active ministry," she said.

Cannon was removed from the camp job in 1964, according to sources, the same year the first misconduct charge was made against him.

He taught at a Catholic high school until 1985, when he was made chaplain of a home for the aged.

In December, as the abuse scandal grew, Cardinal Justin Rigali stripped him of his duties. He's is in his early 80s.

Eisenberg said Daly, who now lives in Lancaster, tried to function despite the memories of his molestation.

But the emotions they stirred "caused problems in his marriage, in his children, in his relationship with co-workers and other family members."

It wasn't until the sexual-abuse scandal broke in Boston three years ago that Daly and others like him realized they were not alone, Eisenberg said.

"He just wanted to forget about it, and there came a time when he couldn't do that anymore," the lawyer said.

He said that Daly's was not a case of repressed memory but that he had been taught it was "mortally sinful and wrong to make any kind of accusation against a priest ...and that priests of the Roman Catholic Church could not and would not engage in conduct considered evil or wrong."

The church has argued that old cases like Daly's cannot be pursued in court because of the statute of limitations. State law usually bars people over the age of 30 from bringing sexual abuse cases.

Eisenberg argued that the statute of limitations should not apply in Daly's case because the church, through denial and transfers of guilty clergy, was guilty of fraudulently concealing a pattern of sex abuse by priests.

Eisenberg alleged that Cannon began to molest Daly at the camp when Daly was in sixth grade and that the abuse continued until Daay was in 10th grade. He said that the priest would approach Daly and then begin fondling him.

Daly never complained to his parents or other adults, the lawyer said. "None of them ever told their parents. Telling your parents you were abused by a priest" was unthinkable.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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