Delmarva: Priest Charged in Sex-abuse Cases Defrocked

By Esteban Parra
The News Journal

August 8, 2008

A Catholic priest who has been the subject of eight sex-abuse lawsuits has been defrocked, the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington announced Thursday.

A Catholic priest who has been the subject of eight sex-abuse lawsuits has been defrocked, the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington announced Thursday.

"The bishop's request was made shortly after DeLuca was arrested on charges of misdemeanor sexual abuse in Syracuse, N.Y., in October 2006," diocesan spokesman Bob Krebs said. "The decision to laicize Mr. DeLuca was made at the recommendation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome and issued by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI."

The decision was effective the moment the pope issued the decree and it cannot be appealed.

In 2006, the diocese named 20 diocesan priests against whom the church had received credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors. The diocese asked the pope to remove the living priests from the priesthood.

Half of the named priests were dead.

On Thursday, Krebs said he did not know the status of the other priests.

Notification of the pope's decision was given personally to DeLuca within the last two weeks by a representative of the Wilmington diocese.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said he hoped DeLuca's laicization would help heal his victims. But Clohessy also said the action should have been taken sooner.

"This is very, very little, very, very late," Clohessy said. "The time to have taken action against this dangerous predator was years and years ago when church officials knew he was a child molester."

Clohessy also said the act does not absolve diocesan officials of the obligation to warn and protect others from him.

Defrocking a dangerous predator, Clohessy said, can provide some temporary relief to his victims. But it can also give the false illusion that kids are protected and bishops are off the hook.

Wilmington attorney Thomas S. Neuberger, who has represented the eight men who sued DeLuca, said he was sure the victims were glad Pope Benedict XVI "took a more progressive position" in defrocking the former priest.

Neuberger does not believe DeLuca's dismissal will do anything for his pending cases, and added that it could even be seen as a strategy.

"For the victims it may be a little bit of silence and it may be a little bit of protection for future victims up in Syracuse," Neuberger said.

"But as far as the effect on the court cases, I think it should be inadmissable evidence because it's just part of a cover-up designed to belatedly -- 46 years later -- make a jury believe that they actually cared."

Diocese attorney Anthony G. Flynn said he did not think this would have an impact on the pending cases.

DeLuca has been named in half of the 16 sex-abuse lawsuits filed in Delaware since last year.

Robert Quill of Marathon, Fla., was the first to file suit against DeLuca after Delaware adopted the 2007 Child Victim's Act, which eliminated the civil statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse and opened a two-year window during which previously time-barred cases could be filed. Quill's suit was settled for an undisclosed amount earlier this year.

DeLuca, 78, ministered in the Wilmington diocese for more than three decades, retiring to Syracuse in 1993 when allegations of child sexual abuse were raised against him again. He was arrested in 2006, pleaded guilty to abusing a teenage relative in Syracuse over several years, and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Krebs said DeLuca was removed from ministry in 1993 and could not present himself as a priest or engage in any priestly ministry. The latest action means he is no longer a priest and can not present himself as Father DeLuca.

This is not excommunication, which is a religious censure suspending membership in a religious community.


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