|Man Files Sex Abuse Suit against Priest
39-Year-Old Says He Was Raped by Capuchin Friar While Student at St. Edmond's Academy
By Beth Miller
May 8, 2008
A 39-year-old Wilmington man filed suit Wednesday in Delaware Superior Court, alleging he was raped and sexually abused for four years by a Capuchin friar while he was a student at St. Edmond's Academy, a private Catholic school in Brandywine Hundred.
In the 48-page suit, Matthias C. Conaty alleges the Rev. Paul Daleo abused him from fourth through seventh grades — sometimes while performing as a "Christian Clown" at various school and church events. Conaty was about 9 years old when the assaults began, the suit says.
The suit alleges Daleo took a special interest in Conaty as a friend, counselor and mentor, and made a practice of hugging and kissing students and swatting them on their buttocks. When Conaty was in fourth grade, the suit says, the contact became sexual.
Daleo, 57 of Jersey City, N.J., could not be reached for comment. He is a member of the Capuchin Franciscans, a Catholic religious order. He was a part-time chaplain, religion instructor, and counselor at St. Edmond's Academy from 1978-82, the time period covered in the suit. He also served as director of religious education at St. John the Beloved Church on Milltown Road, near Pike Creek, during that time, and lived at the Capuchin Friary off Silverside Road in Brandywine Hundred. He was transferred to a New Jersey parish in 1985 and in 2003 took a leave of absence from the order.
In addition to Daleo, defendants include the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, the Capuchin Friars, the Brothers of the Holy Cross, and St. Edmond's Academy. The suit alleges school and church officials knew that Daleo had abused other boys at the school and elsewhere, but failed to stop the abuse or warn students or their parents because of a "conspiracy of silence."
The suit says that as a result of the alleged abuse, Conaty has suffered physical, mental, emotional and psychological problems.
In 2006, shortly after Bishop Michael Saltarelli released the names of 20 diocesan priests against whom the diocese had credible allegations of child sexual abuse, the Capuchins became the first religious order to acknowledge such allegations against one of their members, confirming two confidential settlements with men who said they were abused by Daleo.
St. Edmond's Headmaster Michael Marinelli, who has been at the school for 10 years, said the school takes such matters seriously.
"We would certainly investigate it and work through the process of investigating it," he said.
"It happened a significant number of years ago. ... But we are always concerned about the safety and well-being of our students. It's foremost in our minds. In all the time I've been here, that is something we are very much aware of and in tune with. Something like that is so unfortunate," he said.
Wilmington attorney Mark Reardon, who represents the Capuchins, said he had neither seen the complaint nor reviewed it with his clients and had no comment on it.
The Rev. John LoSasso, who was provincial of the order at the time, said he had not been informed of the lawsuit and was not familiar with the allegations saying they were "not raised at my time as provincial." He referred other questions to the current provincial, the Rev. Brian Tomlinson, adding, "I'm sorry to hear this."
Tomlinson did not return phone messages.
"No child should have to suffer the shame and overwhelming pain that Matt, and then his family, had to endure," said John C. Manly of Newport Beach, Calif., one of the attorneys representing Conaty. "Paul Daleo used his position to earn the trust of children and their families. Then he used that trust to rape and molest innocent kids. The facts in this case are shocking, and everyone — the school, the diocese and the Capuchins — who knew that Daleo was a predator and let him have unfettered access to kids, must be held accountable."
The suit is filed under the provisions of the Child Victim's Act, passed by the state Legislature last year. The law eliminated the statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse and opened a two-year "window," during which previously time-barred suits could be filed.
Conaty and his family were vocal supporters of the proposed law and appeared at many hearings in Legislative Hall last year to lobby for it.
In addition to Manly, Conaty is represented by Wilmington attorneys Bartholomew J. Dalton and Chipman L. Flowers Jr.
Conaty is an employee of The News Journal Co.
Staff reporter Sean O'Sullivan contributed to this story. Contact Beth Miller at 324-2784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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