Rochester Diocese, Bishop Sued over Alleged Molestation

By Ray Finger
Democrat & Chronicle
November 13, 2008

A Schuyler County lawyer said he filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester and Bishop Matthew Clark on behalf of a former Watkins Glen resident who alleges that a diocesan priest sexually molested him from 1998-2001.

Lawyer John Hayes said he filed the lawsuit Wednesday morning in state Supreme Court in Schuyler County.

Hayes is representing Jason C. Hartley, who is now 21 and lives in Chemung County, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit charges that from 1998 through 2001, the Rev. David Bonin, then pastor of St. Mary's on the Lake in Watkins Glen, sexually molested Hartley almost every Friday.

Bonin died in March 2002 at the age of 53, according to a statement today from the diocese. He served at the now-closed Most Precious Blood parish in Rochester in the late 1970s and early 1980s, said Douglas Mandelaro, director of communications for the diocese.

"I'm suing the bishop and the diocese for their failure to protect my client from this priest," Hayes said. "Their failure to supervise him, to train him, to terminate him, and their failure generally to look out for the well-being of all of their child parishioners, is the basis of the lawsuit."

Hartley had come to speak with Hayes about an unrelated legal matter when Hartley blurted out what had happened to him, Hayes said.

The diocese responded Wednesday in a statement saying that no complaint of any kind had ever been received against Bonin, who also served as pastor of St. Benedict Church in Odessa, Schuyler County.

The allegations described by Hayes at his news conference Wednesday were first made to the diocese in 2007, about five years after Bonin's death, the diocesan statement says.

At about the same time, the diocese learned of a similar complaint by a second individual "with whom we have met," the statement says. Mandelaro said they have had conversations with the second victim, but he did not know his status.

The topic is particularly sensitive to Hayes, who said he had been an altar boy at the Watkins Glen church and himself was molested when he was 9 years old by another priest. He settled with the diocese out of court.

The diocese reported the allegations to parishioners with whom Bonin served, and reported them in the diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Courier, urging readers and parishioners to come forward with any additional information, but none came, Mandelaro said.

The diocese statement said that abuse victims should always report to civil authorities.


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