Priest Sues Abuse Investigation Group
By Ariel Zangla
Daily Freeman [New York]
November 5, 2006
A Roman Catholic priest who alleges he was sexually abused by another priest as a child in Columbia County has filed a $2 million lawsuit against the Independent Mediation Assistance Program.
The Rev. Mark Jaufmann filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court, alleging that IMAP was not independent of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, as it advertised. He also named retired Court of Appeals Justice Howard Levine, the law firm Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna, and the New York State Dispute Resolution Association as defendants in the case. Levine, senior counsel for Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna, administers IMAP.
"The suit is entirely without merit, and we very much look forward to responding to it in the proper forum, the court system," Levine said.
A priest with the Ecumenical Catholic Communion in California, Jaufmann, 49, said he was sexually abused as a child by a priest who, until recently, had been serving in Greene County. Jaufmann said he was abused by the Rev. Jeremiah Nunan while he was a parishioner at St. Mary's Church in Hudson.
Most recently, Nunan served at Sacred Heart Parish in Cairo and Our Lady of Knock Mission in East Durham. Nunan took a leave of absence in late February amid the abuse allegations and has not resumed his positions in Greene County.
On Wednesday, Jaufmann said he initially was told that going through the IMAP process would provide him with an opportunity to right certain wrongs and afford him a sense of healing. Instead, he said, he was made to feel by IMAP and the diocese like he was at fault. Jaufmann said he wound up feeling like he was the one being investigated, and that's when he decided to file the suit.
IMAP was created by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese in 2004 to look into allegations of abuse against young people by current or former priests or deacons in the diocese. In September, IMAP announced it would conclude its work by the end of the month because inquiries had dropped to nearly zero.
"My main concern was I wanted to have some sense of healing and I wanted to be listened to," Jaufmann said. He said the church has an obligation to provide an atmosphere of healing to people, which he was not afforded.
Jaufmann said if the diocese had reached out to him and responded to his concerns, or if Nunan had apologized, he would not have felt the need to pursue the case.
Jaufmann said he hopes to receive some satisfaction from the lawsuit but doesn't not know if he ever will. He said he sued so that the defendants will realize they cannot treat people the way he was treated. Jaufmann said IMAP claims it was set up to help people but ends up hurting them instead.
The lawsuit contends that IMAP is not independent of the Albany diocese and that the diocese is responsible for the bills, costs and administrative expenses for Levine and IMAP.
"The program being widely marketed, disseminated and falsely advertised to the public seeks to take advantage of already vulnerable people who have been placed at a severe disadvantage due to their being abused as children or vulnerable persons by priests," Jaufmann's suit says. Innocent victims are persuaded to enter the program by false advertising, the suit claims.
Jaufmann was in the IMAP program for about a year. The lawsuit, which details his experience with the program, claims the defendants did not have formal training in working with victims of sexual abuse or an understanding of the complexities involved.
"The defendants and their principals' delaying tactics, unclear rules and regulations, and disregard for victims have been devastating to the plaintiff emotionally, psychologically, and the defendants have been on notice of this vulnerability," the suit states.
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