Abuse Claim against Priest Is First under Del.'s Victims' Law

By Randall Chase
Staten Island Advance
July 12, 2007

Wilmington, Del. (AP) — A former federal appeals court attorney on Thursday became the first person to file a lawsuit under a new Delaware law allowing victims of child sexual abuse to seek damages for abuse that occurred years ago.

Robert Quill, 52, of Marathon, Fla., filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that, as a teenager, he was repeatedly molested by a priest working for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.

Quill, who retired as a staff attorney for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta after being diagnosed in 2002 with post-traumatic stress disorder, claims he was molested at least 300 times by the Rev. Francis G. DeLuca, who pleaded guilty in a Syracuse, N.Y., court last month to repeatedly sexually abusing a boy there.

"He has to daily fight off suicidal thoughts to end the pain," said Quill's attorney, Thomas Neuberger.

Quill declined to speak at a news conference announcing the lawsuit, a decision that Neuberger said was based on the advice of doctors.

The lawsuit alleges that church officials in Wilmington knew as early as 1958 that DeLuca was sexually abusing young boys, yet continued to allow him to serve as a priest for a generation.

DeLuca, 77, who served in Wilmington for 35 years, retired to his hometown of Syracuse in the early 1990s. Shortly after he was arrested in October on charges of repeatedly abusing a Syracuse boy over several years, Wilmington Bishop Michael Saltarelli released the names of 20 diocesan priests, including DeLuca, against whom the diocese had substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse.

Quill, a Wilmington native, alleges that news of DeLuca's arrest and the diocese's disclosure of suspected pedophiles awakened his own repressed memories of abuse by DeLuca.

The lawsuit alleges that DeLuca, while serving as an assistant pastor at St. Elizabeth's church and a religion teacher at the parish elementary and high schools, sexually abused Quill and several other young boys during the 1960s.

According to the complaint, DeLuca would sometimes molest the boys while purportedly praying, reading the Bible, or explaining the mystery of the Eucharist.

The lawsuit alleges that DeLuca was shuffled among churches in the diocese as officials tried to cover up his abuse, and that he was transferred to St. Elizabeth's from St. John the Beloved parish after molesting an altar boy in the early 1960s during a trip to Philadelphia.

"DeLuca was employed recklessly despite the fact that the defendants had prior actual knowledge that he was a child molester and that they owed a duty of care to protect plaintiff from him," the lawsuit states.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are DeLuca, the Diocese of Wilmington, St. Elizabeth's, and Saltarelli.

The lawsuit was filed less than 48 hours after Gov. Ruth Ann Minner signed a law abolishing Delaware's two-year statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits for victims of child sex abuse and allowing a two-year "lookback" period during which lawsuits previously barred by the statute of limitations can be brought anew.

DeLuca, who pleaded guilty in the New York case to one count of second-degree sexual abuse, two counts of third-degree sexual abuse, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 27. He faces up to two years in prison.


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