NE - Boys Town, York Church School Accused in Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Downloaded February 1, 2003

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A distant relative of the leader of Father Flanagan's Boys Home, the parent company of Girls and Boys Town, filed a federal lawsuit over alleged sexual abuse by a priest and counselor at the home for troubled youth.

In a separate lawsuit filed this week, another man claimed a monsignor at a Catholic church school in York also abused him.

James Duffy, whose mother is a cousin to the Boys Home's executive director, the Rev. Val Peter, filed the lawsuit Thursday.

Duffy claims that a priest and a counselor separately abused him physically and sexually on multiple occasions in the late 1970s.

"If those people really did this, they should be thrown in prison and the key tossed in the river," Peter said Friday. "If, on the other hand, they didn't do this and he's making up this story, then I am very, very angry that someone would try to destroy Father Flanagan's dream."

Peter said he doubted there was any personal motive in the lawsuit by his distant relative.

"No, absolutely not because he doesn't know me," Peter said.

William Walker, Duffy's attorney, also said the family relationship played no role in the lawsuit.

Walker represents both Duffy and Robert P. Goodman, who filed the York lawsuit. Both men now live in Arizona but lived in Nebraska while growing up.

They both claim in court documents that repressed memories of the abuse surfaced some time after February 2002 in the wake of nationwide publicity involving priests in sexual abuse cases.

Duffy claimed that he was repeatedly abused by a priest and a counselor at Boys Town beginning in 1978. The lawsuit said Duffy was a resident at the campus just west of Omaha until 1979. He claims the family counselor in his home, Michael Wolf, and the Rev. James E. Kelly each molested him on separate occasions, leaving him with serious physical and psychological injuries.

The lawsuit names Father Flanagan's Boys Home and the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha. Neither Wolf nor Kelly are named as defendants in the lawsuit filed Thursday.

Walker said Wolf and Kelly were not named in the lawsuit for a number of reasons, including the fact neither could be found.

Attempts to locate the two on Friday were not immediately successful. Boys Town's employment records were not readily made available, but Peter said neither man was employed there when he became director in 1984.

The Rev. Robert Hupp, 87, was executive director at the time of the alleged abuse. He declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said he never received any negative reports about Wolf.

Hupp, who is living at an assisted living retreat center in Wisconsin, remembered Kelly as disciplinarian who had the best interests of children at heart.

Father Flanagan's Boys Home is a non-denominational entity not affiliated with the Omaha Archdiocese, a fact that could lead the Archdiocese to be stricken from the lawsuit, said its chancellor, the Rev. Michael Gutgsell.

Walker said they would not fight the archdiocese being excluded from the lawsuit if it had no control over the priest.

The Rev. Edward Flanagan started the home for wayward boys outside Omaha in 1917. It was made famous by the Oscar-winning 1938 Spencer Tracy movie "Boys Town."

In the other lawsuit, Goodman claims Monsignor Jerome C. Murray physically and sexually molested him on repeated occasions in 1973 and 1974 while Goodman attended fifth through seventh grades at St. Joseph's Catholic Church grade school in York, 87 miles west of Omaha. The lawsuit said Murray was Goodman's teacher, administrator and religious and educational counselor.

Murray, St. Joseph's, and the Diocese of Lincoln are named as defendants.

"I have no information about it. I haven't heard anything about it," said a man who answered the phone at Murray's home in Lincoln but who refused to identify himself.

The Rev. Mark Huber, the diocese's chancellor, said he had not seen the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday.

"We need to see it, and then we'll deal with it," he said.

A phone message left with St. Joseph's Catholic Church was not immediately returned.

Walker said both men, who are asking for unspecified damages, did not know each other before contacting him about possible litigation.


Girls and Boys Town:" target="-blank">">

The Archdiocese of Omaha:" target="-blank">">

The Diocese of Lincoln:" target="-blank">">

St. Joseph's Catholic Church:

Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.