2 More Men Allege Sex Abuse by Priest

By Beth Miller
The News Journal
April 2, 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 from 1980-86.

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.

The Rev. James J. Greenfield, provincial of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, issued a statement Wednesday.

"I am sad and devastated to learn of these recent allegations," Greenfield wrote. "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."

Diocese spokesman Robert G. Krebs said the diocese would have no comment.

Kenney's suit claims Killion assaulted him in the faculty house and on the campus.

Kenney said he came forward publicly, in part, to encourage other victims to do so. He said he told no one about the abuse until Jan. 2 of this year, after the subject came up during a family Christmas gathering. He and his wife were in the car returning to New Jersey and she asked why he had reacted so strangely to the subject. After telling his wife, he said, he sought help from a counselor.

"It took me 25 plus years to come out," said Kenney, who was with Extreme Championship Wrestling from 1999-2001 and with Total Nonstop Action from 2003 to this year. He now is a trainer, 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. I realize the stigma that may follow me and I'm ready to accept it."

In the Doe case, the plaintiff said he was assaulted by Killion on the Salesianum campus and in the confessional. After forcing the teen to perform a sex act, Doe says he reported the abuse to the principal of Salesianum -- the Rev. James W. O'Neill -- who said he was "imagining things" and ordered him back 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 Seaboard -- Wilmington, Philadelphia, other suburbs in Pennsylvania, and there probably are more recent survivors of his abuse in Florida."

Killion worked at Salesianum until 1986, when he was transferred to Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Pa. O'Neill moved from Salesianum to become principal of Archbishop Wood the same year.

Killion also served at Catholic schools in Alexandria, Va., Philadelphia, and Fort Myers, Fla. He was to be assigned to a parish in Holland, Pa., last year, but the first lawsuit against Killion was filed in August and that assignment was revoked by Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. The Oblates say Killion was placed on administrative leave when they learned of the allegations in the lawsuit. He and O'Neill both now live at the Oblates' retirement facility in Cecil County, Md., according to the Rev. Kevin Nadolski, Oblates spokesman.

The suits 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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