Two Ex-Altar Boys Sue Archdiocese over Abuse

By Elizabeth Hamilton
Hartford Courant

July 10, 2008,0,2358463.story

Two men who say they were sexually abused by the Rev. Ivan Ferguson when they served as altar boys in 1981 at St. Mary's Church in Derby are suing the Archdiocese of Hartford, saying it transferred the priest there after receiving complaints about Ferguson's behavior with boys.

The two lawsuits, filed this week in Superior Court by New Haven Attorney Thomas McNamara, were brought by Connecticut residents using the pseudonyms Matthew Doe and Jacob Doe. The men were both 13 when the alleged abuse took place.

According to the lawsuits, Ferguson befriended the boys in 1981, learning about their hobbies and interests, before beginning to sexually abuse them over the course of the next two years. Matthew Doe, whose father and mother had died in 1977 and 1980, respectively, was especially vulnerable to the attentions of the priest, according to the lawsuit.

These are the latest in a series of lawsuits involving Ferguson, who died in 2002 at age 68. He was serving as a staff chaplain at Hartford Hospital in 1993 when the first lawsuit concerning him was brought against the church by three men who were students at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford in the mid-1970s.

According to the lawsuit, the abuse of the two Doe clients could have been prevented if former Archbishop John F. Whealon hadn't transferred Ferguson to St. Mary's after members of his staff received complaints about the priest while he was stationed at St. Bernard's in the Tarriffville section of Simsbury.

Whealon, who served as archbishop from 1969 to 1991, died his last year in office.

Three brothers whose mother worked at St. Bernard's Church sued the archdiocese last year, claiming that Ferguson sexually abused them and threatened to have their mother fired if they reported the abuse.

McNamara, who is also the lawyer on that case, said another priest living with Ferguson at the St. Bernard's rectory knew he was taking boys into his bedroom. During the same period, another priest was told about Ferguson's behavior by a victim but also failed to report the abuse, according to McNamara.

Whealon "could have stopped a lot of this abuse and pain but he protected his priests," McNamara said Wednesday.

The Rev. John Gatzak, spokesman for the archdiocese, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The archdiocese has a policy of not commenting on ongoing litigation.

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