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  Man Sues Diocese, Alleging Sex Abuse
Names 2 Priests, Now Deceased, and Passaic City Parish

By Maya Kremen
The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
July 29, 2004

A 56-year-old man is suing the Diocese of Paterson and the estates of two deceased priests, claiming he was sexually abused at a Passaic parish more than 40 years ago.

In a lawsuit filed in late June, Steve Rabi, now of Albuquerque, N.M., alleges that the abuse occurred during the 1950s and 1960s at St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church. The men he claims abused him, Joseph William Molloy and Francis X. Dennehy,were assistant priests at the church at that time.

Dennehy, who served in eight parishes and was the chaplain of St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, died in 1995.

Molloy, who served in three parishes, left the priesthood in 1978, married, and had six children. He died in 2000.

Diocesan spokeswoman Marianna Thompson said she had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the families of the two priests.

The diocese has heard one other allegation of sexual abuse against Dennehy, said Thompson, who would not elaborate. No one besides Rabi has accused Molloy of molestation, she said.

Rabi also names as defendants St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church, the St. Nicholas School, and the estate of then-Bishop James A. McNulty. The suit claims the diocese and its employees were negligent in failing to prevent the alleged abuse.

Thompson said the diocese is planning to "vigorously defend" itself, using the statute of limitations for filing a civil suit for the sexual abuse of a minor. In New Jersey, the cutoff is two years past the date the alleged victim turns 18, unless the alleged victim can prove that memories of the abuse were repressed.

In a phone conversation Wednesday, Rabi claimed he recalled the incidents clearly only after a national priest abuse crisis came to popular attention in 2002. Around that time, he saw a "Law & Order" episode about a boy who had been molested.

"I think it was a vulnerable moment and it just triggered it," he said. "I remember turning out the light. I told my wife, my eyes were hurting, but actually I was crying."

Rabi grew up down the street from the church, was an altar server, and spent much of his free time playing football in the church's yard.

He claims that Molloy, the assistant priest, regularly groped him for a year when he was 10. Dennehy, another assistant priest, forced him to perform a sex act with another boy a few years later, he alleges.

He said he told the diocese about the alleged abuse in 2002 and has accepted some of its offers to pay for therapy and victims' retreats since then.

During the past two years, he has started a series of Web sites, where he tracks the role of the Diocese of Paterson in the abuse scandal.

He has become the New Mexico coordinator for SNAP (Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests).

"He certainly seems to have a great interest in what he describes as victim advocacy," Thompson said.

But Rabi said he was dissatisfied with therapy and being a victims' advocate. Since his boyhood, he has hungered for control of situations, and suing the diocese and winning would mean a kind of freedom, he said.

"It's actually the only thing that gets their attention," he said. "If I sue them, and prevail, then I can gain control of my life."

 
 

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