Lawsuit Claims Abuse by Former City Priest

By Earl Holland
Daily Times
August 23, 2008

SALISBURY — An Arizona man has filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Wilmington, claiming he was molested by a priest assigned to a city church nearly 40 years ago.

David Dixon, of Peoria, Ariz., filed the suit Friday in Sussex County Superior Court charging that he was molested in 1970 by Leonard Mackiewicz, a former priest at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church.

The lawsuit also claims that Mackiewicz, who died in 1994, was a serial abuser of both boys and girls during his 30 years as a priest in churches throughout the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland and most of Delaware.

"By placing a known child molester in a parish full of young innocents, the diocese quietly sealed the fate of so many vulnerable school children and destroyed the lives of numerous families," said Thomas Neuberger, one of the lawyers representing Dixon. Calls and e-mails made to the Wilmington Diocese on Friday were not returned.

Dixon's lawsuit was the second filed against the Wilmington Diocese during a seven-day period.

On Aug. 15, Mary Dougherty, 55, of Delaware filed a lawsuit against the diocese on claims that Mackiewicz — then at Wilmington's Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church — had allegedly sexually assaulted her on numerous occasions and attempted to rape her in 1966. Dougherty's suit also charges that the diocese covered up allegations levied against Mackiewicz stemming as far back as 1957.

The lawsuits were filed under Delaware's Child Victim's Act of 2007. The lawsuit, which has a two-year window that closes in July 2009, allows Maryland victims who were abused across state lines to seek the opportunity to prove what has happened to them in front of a judge and jury.

In a news release, Neuberger's firm claims that Mackiewicz took then-12-year-old Dixon from his Salisbury to the home of Mackiewicz's mother in Sussex County, where he allegedly forced himself upon Dixon.

Mackiewicz was a priest in the Wilmington Diocese from 1957 until 1987 and retired in good standing after being removed from the active ministry. During his time as a priest, he was a longtime Boy Scout chaplain, a leader of Holy Rosary's Catholic Youth Organization and spent a large part of his career in parishes in Cambridge and Marydel, Md., and Dover, Georgetown, Rehoboth Beach and Smyrna, Del.

Father Edward Aigner of St. Francis de Sales said that he knew of Mackiewicz, but that he never personally knew him or was ever assigned with him.

The diocese's Web site has a section that offers assistance and information on how to report abuse involving church employees. The Web site also states that in cases involving abuse, the diocese will attempt to settle claims filed in civil court through mediation.

Neuberger said that he believes as a result of Dixon filing his suit, others who have endured a similar situation as his client can do the same so they will no longer have to live with years of anguish.

"We hope that David's courage in overcoming a lifetime of suffering will encourage many more victims of Diocesan priests in Maryland parishes to find the inner strength to come forward," he said.

To notify the Diocese of Wilmington about any incidents of abuse by church employees, call 302-656-0651.

Contact:, 410-845-4633.


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