Philly Priests Face Sex-abuse Charges

Philadelphia Gay News
June 25, 2009

Two former Archdiocese of Philadelphia students filed separate suits this month alleging sexual abuse by diocesan priests, while a third suit was filed last week against a current diocesan priest.

Plaintiffs in the first two suits allege that officials with the archdiocese had knowledge of the abuse and did not intervene.

Richard Green, 31, of Pittsgrove Township, N.J., filed suit last week in Delaware Superior Court, alleging that the late Rev. John M. McDevitt Jr. sexually abused him during his freshman year at Father Judge High School in Northeast Philadelphia.

The suit states that Green was struggling in his religion class in 1990 and McDevitt, who taught at Father Judge from 1989-94, kept him after school for private tutoring. Green described in the suit that “getting a bad grade in religion just wasn’t an option,” as he was the nephew of the late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York.

Green claims that during these tutoring sessions, McDevitt began kissing and groping him, eventually engaging in oral sex and anal penetration. Green left the school after his freshman year, stating in the suit that he could not take the abuse any longer.

Prior to Father Judge, McDevitt also taught at Salesianum High School in Wilmington, Del., from 1967-68 and 1982-89 and at his alma mater, Northeast Catholic High School, from 1968-80.

The suit alleges that both the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Wilmington, both named as defendants, “were well aware that Father McDevitt took an unusual interest and spent an inordinate amount of time with minor students.”

Other defendants include McDevitt’s order, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales; and Father Judge and Salesianum high schools.

Archdiocese spokesperson Donna Farrell said Green contacted the archdiocese in March and they then reported the allegations to the district attorney’s office.

McDevitt died of liver cancer in 1999.

Green filed the suit one month prior to the expiration of Delaware’s Child Victim Act, which lifted the state’s statute of limitations on child sex-abuse crimes for two years.

Last week, a former Salesianum student also filed suit in Delaware, this one accusing the Rev. Gerald Dunne, an Oblate and former teacher at the school, of sexual abuse 30 years ago.

Dunne also taught at Northeast Catholic from 1987-94 and has been a staff member at Father Judge since 1994. He also has represented Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in the Northeast for several years.

Although Dunne denies the accusations, the archdiocese placed him on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Parishioners at the church were informed of Dunne’s removal during last weekend’s services, and representatives of the Archdiocesan Victim Assistance Program were on hand to answer questions.

Earlier this month, a former archdiocesan altar boy filed a suit in Asheville, N.C., charging that two Catholic priests sexually abused him in the 1970s and that former Philadelphia Cardinal Krol knew of the abuse.

Defendants in the case are the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C., and retired Father John McCole of Philadelphia.

Steven B. Souder, 47, formerly of Philadelphia, alleges that McCole, the late Father Justin Pechulis of Asheville and an unidentified man sexually abused him when he was a student at Roman Catholic High School and serving as an altar boy for Krol.

Souder claims that McCole abused him on “multiple occasions” and, during a summer trip to the rectory of the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, introduced him to Pechulis. Souder alleges that McCole and Pechulis forced him to engage in group oral sex with them, while the unidentified man masturbated in the room.

The complaint alleges that Souder informed Krol of the abuse, but that the cardinal, who died in 1996, told him he “was not being touched inappropriately” and “that’s just how men behave with each other.”

In an interview with the Daily News earlier this month, McCole said he knew Souder, but denied the charges and said he had no recollection of the trip to North Carolina.

McCole said Souder had accused him of sexual abuse in the past, but the “diocese investigated it and said it was baseless.”

Farrell told PGN she could not comment on the case.

Souder’s attorney, Jay Abramowitch, told the Daily News that Souder contacted him with the allegations in 2007 and that his client had not pursued the case earlier because he had repressed the memories of the abuse.

Although the alleged abuse occurred more than 30 years ago, North Carolina law allows victims to circumvent statutes of limitations if they submit documentation from a psychiatrist that the memories were indeed repressed. Pennsylvania does not have such a law.

Abramowitch did not respond to a call for comment.

Jen Colletta can be reached at


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