Sex-Abuse Case against Religious Order Settled

By Esteban Parra
News Journal
March 25, 2008

A Wilmington man who said he was sexually abused over a nine-year period by a former Salesianum School principal received a written apology, a vow his abuser will never work with children and an undisclosed amount of money in a settlement announced Monday.

Eric Eden, 40, settled with Salesianum, the Oblates of Saint Francis deSales and various Oblate officials, his attorney, Thomas S. Neuberger, said in a statement released after the parties met with Superior Court Judge Calvin L. Scott Jr. on Monday morning.

"I now hope to obtain the medical help necessary to begin addressing the many problems I have suffered since childhood," Eden said in the statement. "This money will be placed in trust for the benefit of my wife and children."

Eden's suit against the sole remaining defendant, the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, is scheduled for trial in October. Eden -- formerly Eric Mazzetti -- claims the diocese conspired to cover up the abuse.

"The case remains on track," diocese attorney Tony Flynn said, adding the diocese knew "zero" about the abuse.

Eden filed his lawsuit in 2004 accusing the Rev. James W. O'Neill, a member of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, of sexually abusing him starting in 1976, when he was 8 years old and O'Neill was principal of the school.

According to the lawsuit, O'Neill was at the Mazzetti home to tutor the boy, but instead would have the boy sit on his lap so he could fondle him. Eden alleges that O'Neill also molested him during family vacations, at the priest's residence and in the school office.

After leaving Salesianum in 1986, O'Neill was assigned to serve as principal of a Philadelphia-area school and pastor of a North Carolina parish. He was removed from the pastoratein April 2002, shortly after Eden reported to the Delaware Attorney General's Office that O'Neill had molested him on a weekly basis over a nine-year period.

At that time, he was assigned to live at the Oblates' retirement community in Childs, Md.

But he then became executive director of the Oblates' Chablais Mission Fund, a job that involved frequent international travel to evaluate the needs of various missions. As recently as last year, O'Neill was "on assignment" in the Diocese of Upington-Keimos in South Africa, filling in for a priest who had to leave the field.

As part of Monday's settlement, the Rev. Kevin Nadolski, director of communications of the Oblates, said O'Neill has been permanently removed from the ministry. Nadolski said O'Neill again will live and work at the Oblates' retirement community in Childs.

Nadolski also released a statement apologizing to Eden, his parents and to the local Catholic and Salesianum communities.

"Today's action is an important step in healing the pain and suffering that James O'Neill caused Eric Eden ... " the Rev. James J. Greenfield, Provincial of the Oblates, said Monday.

Contact Esteban Parra at 324-2299 or



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