December 10, 2020
By Rebecca Everett
In the latest round of lawsuits against the order of Catholic monks that runs the prestigious Delbarton School, three plaintiffs are alleging they were sexually abused in the 1980s, including one plaintiff who said he was abused by three monks.
The Order of St. Benedict of New Jersey has faced at least 19 lawsuits since Dec. 1, 2019 when New Jersey extended the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse lawsuits and allowed a two-year window for those who were previously barred from filing suits by time limits.
The three new suits — filed by attorneys Greg Gianforcaro and Jeff Anderson — make allegations of sexual abuse against then-monks Timothy Brennan, Donal Fox, Luke Travers, a monk and former headmaster of the Delbarton School, and Kevin Bray, a monk who worked in an Elizabeth church.
Brennan, Fox and Travers have all been named in lawsuits before and Bray has been accused in one previous lawsuit in 2008, according to Gianforcaro. Brennan, who died last year, remains one of the most-often-accused monks in the state, with lawsuits involving him numbering in the double digits and a criminal conviction back in 1987.
One of the new lawsuits claims the plaintiff was abused by three monks, Brennan, Fox and Travers, on individual occasions at the Delbarton School between 1982 and 1989, starting when he was 14 and ending when he was 21 and no longer a student.
The second plaintiff, Bernard Murphy, has been public for years about his experience with Travers, but the lawsuit also makes new sexual abuse allegations against Brennan.
In a 2011 letter to Delbarton officials, Murphy said Travers would kiss and hug him against his will when he was a student starting in 1982. When Murphy returned to campus as a college student for a 1990 visit, Travers professed his love for him and said he wanted to run away together, Murphy said.
The abbey placed restrictions on Travers in 2011, including that he not have contact with anyone under 25 while they investigated, but he violated them when he went on to work as the administrative head of Mary Mother of the Church Abbey in Richmond, Virginia. A Delbarton spokesman conceded at the time that “mistakes were made” in monitoring Travers.
Travers is the only living monk among those accused in the three suits. He could not be reached for comment and a lawyer who represented him in previous suits did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The plaintiff in the third suit alleges he was abused by Kevin Bray, a teacher and monk of the Order of St. Benedict who also worked at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Elizabeth. The suit says Bray abused him at the church from 1986 to 1987 when the plaintiff was 13 and 14 years old and a student at the parish school.
The four monks have been previously accused of abusing students, but none of their names were included in the Catholic church’s 2019 list of credibly-accused priests because they are monks overseen by a religious order instead of dioceses.
Like the flurry of previous lawsuits, the three civil complaints allege that those in charge at the Delbarton School and St. Mary’s Abbey, as well as the Archdiocese of Newark, knew or should have known abuse was going on.
Gianforcaro said he has settled at least 15 cases on behalf of sexual abuse survivors against the Delbarton School since 2004. In 2018, school officials publicly acknowledged in a letter to the community that 30 individuals had alleged abuse by 13 past or current clergy at the school, and one retired lay faculty member, over the course of three decades.
In a statement this summer, spokesman Anthony S. Cicatiello said the abbey and school condemn any abuse and encourage survivors to report allegations to police. He said he could not comment because of the ongoing litigation.
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