2nd Sex Abuse Suit against Priest

By Stuart Vincent
March 13, 1997

Two women yesterday filed a $60-million lawsuit charging a Long Island Catholic priest with sexually abusing them when they were teenagers at an East Meadow parish school.

The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Queens by Judith Cajigas, 51, of Riverhead and Patricia Hastings, 51, of Rhode Island, is the second sexual abuse lawsuit brought against the priest. The women, who attended St. Raphael's parish school in the 1950s, charged Msgr. John Mott with repeatedly molesting them when they were members of youth groups he ran at the school. Mott, 68, now a priest at of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Hicksville, served at the East Meadow church from 1956 to 1969.

Mott was named in a $23-million suit filed in August, 1994, by Janet Ostrowski of North Bellmore, who attended St. Raphael's at the same time. Four other women, including Cajigas and Hastings, contacted the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre after reading published reports of the lawsuit to say they had been abused by Mott.

State Supreme Court Judge Robert Doyle ruled in March, 1995, that Ostrowski's case did not meet the criteria for suspending the statute of limitations on civil sexual-abuse cases. The statute in such cases is at most three years. Ostrowski had argued that the statute should be measured from when she recovered her memory of the alleged abuse in 1993 after seeing a television program on sexual abuse.

Ostrowski's attorneys, Gary Viscio and Michael Resnikoff of Farmingdale, have taken up her appeal, which had languished. The attorneys also represent Cajigas and Hastings. Cajigas said she was pursuing her own lawsuit because, "I feel the church is not doing its part to protect the children at all."

Hastings could not be reached for comment.

At the request of Bishop John R. McGann, Mott in 1995, took a leave of absence from his position as pastor of St. Catherine of Sienna Church in Franklin Square. He resigned his post in July, 1995, citing personal problems resulting from the accusations.

Msgr. Alan Placa, a vice chancellor with the diocese who handles charges of sexual abuse against priests, said he had not yet been served with the new lawsuit, which names St. Raphael's and the diocese as well as Mott. Placa said Mott underwent psychiatric evaluations after the first lawsuit was filed.

"We've had Mott evaluated three separate times and have no reason to believe he poses a threat to anyone," said Placa.

Attorneys representing the parish, the diocese and Mott could not be reached for comment. Mott did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Cajigas said the sexual abuse began when she was 11 or 12 and continued until she was 15. Hastings said the abuse occurred from age 12 until age 14. Both said in the lawsuit that Mott fondled them and forced them to touch his genitals.

Cajigas said she became an alcoholic, and through years of therapy and recovery never discussed her sexual abuse. It was a newspaper article about Ostrowski's lawsuit that revived her memories of that abuse, she said. "About five o'clock in the morning I got out of bed and I read the article again and I just started crying and crying and crying and I realized I, too, was a victim," she said.



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