Rochester Diocese, Bishop Sued over Alleged Molestation


November 12, 2008

An Odessa lawyer said he filed a lawsuit today on behalf of a former Watkins Glen resident who alleges a priest sexually molested him while serving at St. Mary’s of the Lake Church in Watkins Glen.

Lawyer John Hayes said he filed the lawsuit against the Diocese of Rochester and Bishop Matthew Clark this 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, sexually molested Hartley almost every Friday from when he was 9 years old to when he was 12.

Bonin died in March 2002 at the age of 53, according to a statement today from the diocese.

“I’m suing the bishop and the diocese for their failure to protect my client from this priest,” he 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 today in a statement that no complaint of any kind had ever been received against Bonin, who also served as pastor of St. Benedict Church in Odessa.

The allegations described by Hayes at his news conference today 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.

Asked what the status was of the second victim, Douglas Mandelaro, director of communications for the diocese, 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 was molested himself when he was 9 years old by another priest. He settled with the diocese out of court.

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

To report a case of possible sexual abuse and to receive help and guidance from the diocese, victims are encouraged to contact the victims’ assistance coordinator appointed by Clark: Barbara Pedeville, (585) 328-3228, ext. 1215 (Toll-free 800-388-7177, ext. 1215), or by e-mail at, the statement says.


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