Former Albright College student withdraws suit claiming defrocked priest harassed, threatened her

Morning Call

June 17, 2019

By Peter Hall

A former Albright College student has dismissed her lawsuit claiming she was harassed and stalked by a defrocked Roman Catholic priest who taught at the Berks County school, court records show.

Rachel Youse filed the lawsuit in federal court in January seeking more than $100,000 in damages, claiming she suffered psychological trauma and was forced to withdraw from classes as a result of harassment and threats by former priest James Gaffney, one of more than 300 Pennsylvania clergy members named in a report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Youse’s attorney Joseph Bambrick said Monday that he could confirm only that the case is over. A spokeswoman for Albright also said the matter has been resolved, but did not provide details. An attorney for Gaffney did not return a call Monday.

Youse alleged Gaffney made lewd and suggestive comments, including requests to meet her off campus at a building he owned, according to the lawsuit. Gaffney allegedly threatened Youse, who was enrolled in Gaffney’s English class, by reminding her he controlled her grades and allegedly made inappropriate advances that constituted serious misconduct.

Bambrick said when the suit was filed that there was no physical contact between Youse and Gaffney.

The lawsuit claimed that Youse and her lawyer asked to speak with Albright’s dean about the harassment and that he refused to meet with them. Youse also alleged another faculty member told her to be quiet about the teacher’s alleged misconduct because her claims would not be good for the college’s reputation and that the college refused the student’s request to pay for counseling.

The report on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, released in August by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office, describes accusations that Gaffney engaged in improper and sexual relationships with women through the 1980s and 1990s. He was twice placed on sick leave at the Servants of The Paraclete, a New Mexico treatment center for priests, according to the report.

The report details accusations by women who told Allentown Diocese officials that Gaffney had sexual contact with them as teenagers when he was assigned to St. Ursula’s Church in Fountain Hill, Reading Central Catholic High School and St. Catherine of Siena in Mount Penn, Berks County. The woman who accused Gaffney of abusing her at Reading Central Catholic filed a civil lawsuit against the diocese in 2004, but it was dismissed because it was filed too long after the alleged misconduct.

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