Assistant pastor at Concord church sexually abused young girl four decades ago, lawsuit alleges

Staten Island Advance [Staten Island NY]

May 9, 2021

She was young, trusting and vulnerable, and a cleric at a Concord church took advantage of her faith in him to sexually abuse her more than 40 years ago, a former parishioner alleges.

The plaintiff was molested by Jonathan Del Turco, an assistant pastor at Christian Pentecostal Church, in 1977 when she was around 9 years old, alleges a lawsuit against the church.

The cleric “used his position of authority and trust over plaintiff to sexually abuse and harass” the young girl, a civil complaint alleges.

He abused her in his “church-owned residence, car, and in various locations within and/or on the premises of the church,” alleges the complaint.

The church was negligent “in not knowing that abuser posed a threat of sexual abuse to children,” the complaint contends.

The plaintiff suffered “severe and permanent emotional distress” due to the alleged abuse, which has negatively impacted her life, maintains the complaint.

The suit was recently filed in state Supreme Court, St. George, under the Child Victims Act. The plaintiff seeks unspecified monetary damages.

The church is the only named defendant, although Del Turco is identified in the complaint.

Reached by phone, the pastor, the Rev. John Rocco Carlo, politely declined comment on the allegations.

Attempts to contact Del Turco were not immediately successful.

Enacted in August 2019, the Child Victims Act created a one-year window for plaintiffs of any age to sue alleged abusers regardless of when the abuse occurred.

That window was extended to August of this year.

The law also allows victims of sexual abuse to sue their alleged abuser any time before they turn 55.

Now, 52, the plaintiff resides in New Jersey, per the complaint.

Raised in the Pentecostal faith, she went to church two or three times a week for religious and educational instruction, the complaint said.

According to Pentecostal teaching, religious figures and other individuals in leadership positions in the church, such as the associate pastor, are highly regarded, said the complaint.

Those individuals “have traditionally occupied positions of great trust, respect, and allegiance among adults and children, including plaintiff,” contends the complaint.

Parishioners are taught to hold them “in the highest esteem as earthly representatives of God,” the complaint said.

Unlike lay people, Pentecostal religious figures and leaders “belong to a separate and higher state in life, which the church represents to be of divine origin and which … entitles them to special privileges,” the complaint alleges.

For those reasons, the child felt powerless to tell anyone what happened, the complaint alleges.

“The dominating culture of the church over plaintiff pressured plaintiff not to report abuser’s sexual abuse of her,” alleges the complaint.

However, the church should have been aware of the assistant pastor’s “propensity to develop inappropriate relationships with children under his charge and to engage in sexual behavior and lewd and lascivious conduct with such children,” the complaint alleges.

“At the very least, the church knew or should have known that it did not have sufficient information about whether or not its leaders and people working at the church and school were safe,” maintains the complaint.