3 Ex-Del. Priests Named in New Sex-Abuse Suits

By Beth Miller
News Journal
April 25, 2009

Five more suits were filed this week alleging sexual abuse by three priests who used to serve in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, including two who taught at Salesianum School. All of the alleged incidents occurred more than 20 years ago, and all but one of the plaintiffs used a pseudonym to file their complaints.

About 40 such cases have been filed since Delaware lawmakers in 2007 passed a law eliminating the statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse. The law also opened a two-year window during which cases previously barred by the time limit could be filed. Attorney Thomas Neuberger, whose Wilmington firm has filed most of the cases, said he and his partners probably would be filing cases almost daily in order to meet the July deadline.

Three of the suits were filed in Superior Court in Kent County against Francis G. DeLuca, who served as a diocesan priest for 35 years but was defrocked last summer by Pope Benedict XVI. DeLuca, who pleaded guilty in 2007 to sexually abusing a teenage relative in Syracuse, now has been named by 12 plaintiffs.

Michael Ward, 63 of Indiana, and the two anonymous plaintiffs -- a 58-year-old man (John Doe No. 5) and a 59-year-old man (John Doe No. 6), both of Delaware -- say the former priest raped and molested them while they were at St. John the Beloved Church on Milltown Road, where he was associate pastor. The incidents occurred between 1961 and 1964. The church and the diocese were named as defendants.

Diocese spokesman Robert G. Krebs said officials there would not comment on pending litigation.

In his suit, Ward says the abuse started when he was a 15-year-old freshman at a seminary in New Jersey. He says he returned home to visit his family in Delaware, assisted DeLuca as an altar boy and was invited by the priest to accompany him on a trip to New York. There, the priest sexually abused him, Ward says in the complaint. He later dropped out of seminary and transferred to Salesianum School.

The 58-year-old plaintiff said he was about 10 years old when DeLuca asked him to be an altar boy. The abuse started immediately, according to the suit, and DeLuca warned the boy not to tell anyone, that the matter was between him and the Lord, because DeLuca was "the Lord's representative."

The 59-year-old plaintiff said he was about 12 when DeLuca began to abuse him, after recruiting him to help count Mass offerings. DeLuca got permission from the plaintiff's parents to have the boy stay overnight at the rectory on such occasions, the suit says, and later took the boy on several overnight trips to New York City to see Yankees games and movies or plays, where the abuses continued.

On Thursday, an 11th man filed suit alleging sexual abuse by the Rev. Dennis Killion of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. Killion is a former member of the Salesianum School faculty, now assigned to the order's retirement facility in Cecil County, Md.

The Killion suit, filed in Superior Court in New Castle County under the pseudonym "John BM Doe," alleges abuse from 1984 to 1985 by Killion on school grounds and during a school trip to Kings Dominion in Virginia. The plaintiff says Killion promised him better grades if he kept his mouth shut about the matter.

Attorney Michael Reck, whose San Diego-based law firm -- Manly & Stewart -- is among three firms representing the 11 plaintiffs against Killion, called the Oblate "one of the most horrific perpetrators" accused under the 2007 law.

Killion's attorney, John Deckers, did not respond to a call from The News Journal. But the Rev. James J. Greenfield, provincial of the Oblates, issued a prepared statement.

"The accumulation of these lawsuits speaks to the pain felt among the people who allege abuse," he said. "Regardless of how long ago people may have been abused, we are responsible for healing their suffering if our brothers caused their pain. ... If these allegations are true, we will offer our full apology to the victims because healing is essential to justice, and sexual abuse is wrong and cannot be tolerated."

Killion was on the faculty at Salesianum before his 1980 ordination with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, according to the Rev. Kevin Nadolski, spokesman for the Oblates. He served an "apostolic internship" at Salesianum from 1974 to 1976 before pursuing a graduate degree in Washington, D.C. He then worked at Salesianum from 1980 to 1986 and was later transferred to Catholic schools in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida. He was assigned last year to a parish in Holland, Pa., but the assignment was revoked when the first suit was filed against him in August.

Nadolski said Killion lives "under supervision" at the Oblates' facility in Cecil County, Md., according to the standards prescribed by Praesidium, a Texas-based firm consulting with the Oblates on abuse risk management.

"Like any man who has been removed from ministry and placed in supervision, in order for them to leave the community, they would be accompanied by somebody," Nadolski said. "They would need explicit permission [from the religious superior] for that to happen. There are various protocols in place."

In another case filed Superior Court in New Castle County Friday, a deceased priest -- the Rev. Harold Hermley -- was named by a 51-year-old Delaware resident filing as "John Roe No. 2." The plaintiff alleges Hermley, who was an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, sexually abused him more than 100 times between 1971 and 1973. Many of the assaults occurred on overnight visits, some in the plaintiff's own home, some in New Jersey, some in Philadelphia. The suit, filed by the Neuberger firm, names the school, the Oblates and Greenfield as defendants.

In addition to Salesianum, Hermley taught at schools in Virginia and Philadelphia.

Nadolski on Friday said the Oblates could not comment on the Hermley suit because they had not yet seen it.

Contact Beth Miller at 324-2784 or


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