Delaware: Eighth Person Alleges Abuse by Former Priest

By Beth Miller
The News Journal

July 16, 2008

WILMINGTON — A 60-year-old Virginia man today filed suit against the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington. He is the eighth person to allege sexual abuse by the Rev. Francis G. DeLuca.

Michael Schulte, who was an altar boy at St. John the Beloved Church in Milltown, says DeLuca abused him twice in 1961 and 1962, when he was 13 to 14 years old. The suit names the parish as a co-defendant.

With Schulte’s suit, filed in Kent County Superior Court, victims have claimed abuses by DeLuca covering a 45-year span, from 1961 to 2006. In the most recent case, DeLuca was arrested in Syracuse, N.Y., and convicted of abusing a teenage relative there.

DeLuca, now 78, is in retirement in Syracuse, where he is forbidden to serve as a priest. The diocese has asked Pope Benedict XVI to "laicize" him, removing all priestly faculties from him.

Schulte’s suit alleges that DeLuca sexually abused him during trips to Philadelphia and Richmond, Va. He reported the abuse to his parents, who confronted church officials.

Church officials then sent another priest -- the Rev. Douglas Dempster -- to investigate the allegations, but Schulte says Dempster warned him and his family never to speak to anyone of the matter.

Both Dempster and DeLuca were named in 2006 by Bishop Michael Saltarelli on a list of 20 diocesan priests against whom the church had received credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

Among Schulte’s complaints are three reports he says he made of the abuse, to no avail. Schulte says he complained about the abuse and the fact that DeLuca was still in the company of children in 1962, 1993 and 2002.

Schulte says he learned DeLuca was still ministering at a Wilmington parish -- St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine -- in 1993 and renewed his complaint to church authorities. That year, Bishop Robert Mulvee allowed DeLuca to retire to Syracuse, his hometown.

In 2002, after the clergy abuse scandal emerged nationally, Schulte learned that DeLuca was visiting Delaware regularly to take two boys camping. He says he reported this to the diocese and to the Delaware Attorney General’s office.

Diocese attorney Anthony G. Flynn said church records show that DeLuca was removed from ministry at St. John the Beloved in January 1966, after Schulte’s complaint of abuse that occurred several years before.

But, he said, that difference in timing does not diminish Schulte’s complaint.

"We don’t want to gloss over the fact that Mr. Schulte was a victim of Francis DeLuca," Flynn said.

"This case is about ensuring once and for all that DeLuca will never again have the opportunity to sexually abuse young children," said Stephen J. Neuberger, one of the attorneys who represents Schulte. "This has to stop and children have to be protected."

DeLuca is not named in this suit. Already he and the diocese have settled a complaint by Robert Quill of Florida, who received an undisclosed sum, an acknowledgement of the abuse and an apology from church officials.

The suit is the 13th filed under the provisions of the 2007 Child Victim’s Act, which eliminated the statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse and provided a two-year window during which previously time-barred cases could be filed. That window closes July 10, 2009.



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