Court Upholds Abuse Case Ruling

By Erin L. Nissley
The Times-Tribune [Pennsylvania]
July 10, 2007

The state Superior Court has upheld a 2006 ruling from a Lackawanna County judge, agreeing that a former altar boy who claims a priest repeatedly molested him waited too long to sue the Diocese of Scranton.

The alleged victim, a 58-year-old New York City man, filed suit in 2005 claiming he was abused by the Rev. Francis Brennan about 10 times at St. Therese Church in Shavertown in 1961.

Although the plaintiff is named in the complaint, it is the policy of The Times-Tribune not to identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

Judge Terrence Nealon ruled the two-year time frame to bring the civil case had long passed, granting a defense motion and essentially dismissing the case.

The Superior Court upheld Judge Nealon's ruling, rejecting the alleged victim's argument that diocesan officials tried to conceal the abuse after it was reported.

According to the suit, the alleged victim reported the abuse in the fall of 1961 to the Rev. Michael Rafferty, a priest at Gate of Heaven School, who met with the boy's parents. The suit said the parents later reported the abuse to Bishop Jerome D. Hannan, who assured them Father Brennan would be "taken care of." The parents took that to mean the priest would be reported to law enforcement officials and punished, the suit said.

Although Father Brennan was later reassigned to Marian Convent in Scranton, the suit alleged the diocese concealed the reason for his transfer. In 1970, Father Brennan moved to St. Maria Goretti parish in Laflin, where he served as a priest until his death.

"Given that the priest in question remained openly employed with the diocese until his death in the mid-1970s, this cannot excuse the delay of 40 years in filing this complaint," the Superior Court ruling reads.

Attempts to reach Kenneth Millman, the alleged victim's attorney, were unsuccessful.

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