Former Priest at Sallies Faces New Abuse Charges

By Beth Miller
The News Journal
April 1, 2009

A former Salesianum School faculty member faces two more lawsuits in Delaware Superior Court from men who allege that he sexually abused them when they were students there during the 1980s.

Eight men now have made such claims against the Rev. Dennis Killion, who worked at Salesianum until 1986.

One plaintiff, a 39-year-old Delaware man, filed anonymously as John SJ Doe. The other, Patrick Kenney, 40, of New Jersey, is a former professional wrestler, known best during his wrestling days as “Simon Diamond.” The suits include allegations between 1982 and 1985.

Both say they were sexually assaulted by Killion, and they also are suing the school, the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, and the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, the religious order Killion belongs to. Church and school officials knew or should have known of previous allegations of sexual abuse by Killion but kept the information secret and allowed Killion to continue as a teacher, they say.

Kenney said he came forward, in part, to encourage other victims to do so.

“It took me 25 plus years to come out,” he said. “I consider myself to be a pretty strong personality. Imagine how it must be for others, who have to deal with it and haven't told anyone because of fear of the public backlash. We all know the stereotype and stigma that comes along with a male who is sexually abused by a priest. How many jokes will there about this? I realize what I’m getting into.”

When asked for comment, the Rev. James J. Greenfield, provincial of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, issued a prepared statement.

“I am sad and devastated to learn of these recent allegations,” the statement said. “We take seriously anyone who alleges sexual misconduct against an Oblate priest or brother, and we remove that man from ministry and work to learn the facts. If these allegations are true, we will offer our full apology to those victims in the case because healing is essential to justice, and sexual abuse is wrong and cannot be tolerated.”

In the Doe case, the plaintiff says he reported the abuse to the principal of Salesianum -- the Rev. James W. O’Neill -- but was told to return to class. O’Neill himself was accused of sexual abuse in a 2004 lawsuit by Eric Eden of Wilmington. Eden in 2008 won an undisclosed financial settlement from O’Neill, the Oblates, Salesianum, and Diocese of Wilmington, got written apologies and assurances that O’Neill would be barred from public ministry.

“What is interesting about Father Killion is that Wilmington was in about the middle of his career,” said attorney Michael Reck, whose law firm Manly & Stewart is representing all eight men in the four cases filed against Killion. The California-based firm is working locally with Dalton & Associates and the Flowers Counsel Group. “He has, it appears, a trail of survivors up and down the Eastern Seabord -- Wilmington, Philadelphia, other suburbs in Pennsylvania, and there probably are more recent surivivors of his abuse in Florida.”

Killion worked at Salesianum until 1986, was transferred to Father Judge High School in Philadelphia, is listed among the priests at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Va., from 1990 to 1991, worked as a school activities director at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, Fla., from 2006 to 2008, and was to be assigned to a parish in Holland, Pa. That assignment was revoked by Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, and the Oblates say Killion was placed on administrative leave in August, when they learned of the allegations in the lawsuit. He now lives at the Oblates’ retirement facility in Cecil County, Md.

The suits all are brought under the provisions of the 2007 Child Victim’s Act, which opened a two-year “window,” allowing civil claims in child sexual abuse cases that previously would have been barred by the statute of limitations. That window expires in July.


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