St. Vincent Archabbey Settles Sex Abuse Civil Suit

By Matthew Junker
Tribune-Review [Pennsylvania]
February 16, 2005

A Centre County woman has settled a lawsuit against St. Vincent Archabbey, while her son continues to press his claim that he was sexually abused by priests.

Mary Bonson, of Port Matilda, filed a civil suit in 2003 seeking damages in excess of $30,000 against the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese and Bishop Joseph V. Adamec, former Bishop James Hogan and the Benedictine Society of Westmoreland County alleging that her son John Morrison, of State College, was abused between 1980 and 1982.

Westmoreland County Judge Gary P. Caruso ruled last year that two other priests who were defendants in the case -- the Rev. Athanasius Cherry, former pastor of St. Vincent Basilica, and the Rev. Andrew Campbell, a faculty member at St. Vincent College -- could not have intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Bonson even if the allegations were true. The case against those two monks was thrown out.

Bonson reached a financial settlement to close the case on Dec. 30. Her lawyer, Helen R. Kotler, declined to release the amount of the settlement until her client gave her approval. No confidentiality agreement was signed as part of the settlement, Kotler said.

A representative of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese deferred to St. Vincent for comment, saying the archabbey's insurer had paid the settlement.

St. Vincent officials referred calls to their Pittsburgh attorney, Carl Eck.

Eck likewise declined to disclose the amount of the settlement, but said "it seemed like the right thing to do."

Meanwhile, the case of Morrison remains active. He is likewise seeking an amount in excess of $30,000.

Bonson claimed she first learned about the abuse in 2002 when she asked Morrison about allegations of sexual abuse by another priest in the family's home parish, St. John's, in Bellefonte, also in Centre County. Her son had served as an altar boy in the early 1980s when he was 17 years old.

Bonson said her son told her he was abused not by the parish priest but by the Rev. Alvin T. Downey, a monk of St. Vincent and a psychiatric nurse. Downey had been appointed to St. John's in 1980 by the archabbey and the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese to substitute for a vacationing priest.


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