Physician Testifies in Camden Diocese Suit Hearing

Class Action Reporter
May 16, 2002

A second round of hearings on a class action against the Diocese of Camden opened recently with another former altar boy describing how a parish priest sexually abused him decades ago, The Associated Press has reported. The hearing will focus on whether the first ex-altar boy and his brother, also an ex-altar boy, have a legal excuse for not filing their claims sooner.

Under New Jersey law, a minor who is sexually abused has until his or her 20th birthday to seek redress in court. After that period of time, the statute of limitation is deemed to have tolled, terminating the right to sue for a specific action, unless the victim can show duress or incapacity prevented him or her from bringing the action sooner.

Dr. Mark Depman, 47, a physician from Guilford, Conn., who grew up in New Jersey, said the Rev. John P. Kelly molested him in the late 1960s at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Merchantville, and said that another priest once fondled him in a bath house. Unless Dr. Depman can satisfy the court that there were, in his case, mitigating circumstances under the law, that prevented him from coming forward to sue at age 20, his right to seek redress in court would have terminated in 1974.

He compared the assaults to someone opening the back of a computer and damaging its hard drive. "When they had their pleasure, they shut the door and I was left with a damaged, faulty hard drive for the rest of my life," Dr. Depman testified. "Those men damaged my brain."

Dr. Depman and his brother, John F. Depman, 45, are among 16 plaintiffs suing the diocese over sexual abuse they say they suffered at the hands of priests in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The lawsuit filed in 1994, alleges that diocesan priests preyed on children and that their superiors ignored or covered up the abuse.

Earlier this month, after a similar hearing, Superior Court Judge John G. Himmelberger Jr. dismissed two Delaware brothers as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, saying they had failed to prove "religious duress"
prevented them from coming forward sooner.

At the hearing, Dr. Depman, an emergency room physician, testified that he had at least a dozen sexual contacts with Rev. Kelly beginning at age 12 or 13, but that he did not understand it was wrong until 1993.
These contacts included fondling, masturbation and oral-genital contact. Rev. Kelly also introduced Dr. Depman to Rev. Charles McColgan, who once took him and a friend to a bathhouse where Rev.
McColgan fondled him.

Dr. Depman said he never thought about the sex acts as right or wrong until 1993, when he was driving to New Jersey, for a visit, with his wife and son. She told him that his migraine headaches nearly always coincided with his visits home. "It did not all just come upon me," he said. "It's an ongoing process of beginning to fix those damaged circuits."

Rev. Kelly, who was treated for pedophilia at St. Luke's Hospital in Suitland, Md., died in 1992. Rev. McColgan died a year later.

Brian Tierney, a public relations person working on behalf of the Diocese of Camden's law firm, said it was difficult to believe Dr.
Depman, as a medical professional, did not realize until he was in his 30s that he had been a victim. "He waited 20 years until Father Kelly was dead, to file his lawsuit," said Mr. Tierney, speaking outside the courthouse after Dr. Depman's testimony.

"I'm not saying it didn't happen and I'm not saying it's not horrible, but justice requires that you adhere to the statute of limitations," he said.


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