Lawsuit alleges sexual abuse of student at Holbrook Catholic school in 1980s

Boston Globe

March 2, 2022

By Tonya Alanez

An Auburn man has filed a negligence lawsuit accusing two now deceased priests of sexually abusing him while he was a studentat a Catholic school in Holbrook during the 1980s.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Worcester Superior Court, alleges the abuse occurred at St. Joseph School when Gerry Nee, now 46, was 6 to 12 years old.

The alleged abuse took place in confessionals and a vacant rectory, where one sexual assault left Nee in need of medical attention, according to the nine-page lawsuit.

Nee wants to set an example for his children and hopefully inspire other victims to come forward, Nee’s lawyer, John T. Martin, said Wednesday.

“It took a tremendous amount of courage for Gerry to disclose what happened and he had to overcome a lot of fears and concerns and anxieties about his privacy,” Martin said. “In many ways, it’s therapeutic for people to confront their abusers and the people who allowed it to happen.”

Recent therapy helped Nee, a father of two preteens, recognize the harm he endured at the hands of the Rev. Robert Fichtner and the Rev. Anthony Rebeiro, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit demands a jury trial and seeks $3 million in damages.

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston on Wednesday said that as a practice they do not comment on pending litigation.

Nee attended St. Joseph from 1982 to 1988, according to the lawsuit. Nee’s abuse took place from 1982 until 1989, it alleges.

Fichtner was assigned to the school as a priest from 1981 to 1990, the lawsuit said. Fichtner would molest Nee while in confession and other locations at the school, according to the suit.

Rebeiro, who was parochial vicar at the school from 1987 to 1989, is accused of “explicit lewd and lascivious” behavior as well as the rape in the vacant rectory. According to the lawsuit, Rebeiro told Nee’s mother that the child had caused his own injuries.

The school closed in 2020.

“There’s a ripple effect when someone’s traumatized,” Martin said. “I think it’s extremely import for victims to come forward because these childhood abuses cause harm throughout their entire lives: depression, anxiety, self-harming behaviors, relationship problems and substance abuse.

“These are things that affect the entire community and lawsuits like this that hold large entities accountable help to not just receive compensation for the injured people but protect society from all those other harms.”

This story has been updated to correct the residence of the plaintiff to Auburn.

Tonya Alanez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @talanez