Archdiocese of Miami Sued in Sex Abuse Claims

By Jaweed Kaleem
Miami Herald
October 6, 2010

A Fort Lauderdale man is suing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami, saying that a late priest sexually abused him in the '60s.

A 55-year-old man who says he was sexually abused as a child by a Roman Catholic priest who died 11 years ago is suing the Archdiocese of Miami.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Willard Trent says the Rev. Thomas Dennehy, who died in 1999, sexually abused him several times in 1967 and 1968 while he was an altar boy at St. John the Baptist parish in Fort Lauderdale.

The lawsuit says Dennehy, who was principal at Cardinal Gibbons High School, where the parish met while its building was under construction, abused Trent with masturbation and oral sex and dressed him up in a girl's school uniform before sodomizing him. The lawsuit also says that other unnamed priests joined Dennehy in the sexual acts.

`I know that others are hurting as much as I am from Father Dennehy's crimes. I hope that my speaking up will help others to come forward and break their silence so that they too can begin healing,'' Trent, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, said in a statement.

The lawsuit, the first against the archdiocese that names Dennehy, says Trent did not remember being sexually abused until he visited St. John the Baptist last year and spoke to a priest about his childhood, triggering the memories.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said Tuesday that Trent reported the incidents to the archdiocese last October and was offered assistance.

`The alleged victim spoke five times to the Archdiocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator and was offered counseling that would be paid for by the Archdiocese of Miami. As per policy, the allegation was reported to Dennis Siegel, Broward County State Attorney's Office, on December 22, 2009 . . . No other allegations have been reported against Father Dennehy,'' she said in a statement.

She continued: ``As always, the Catholic Church's concerns are for the victims and a prevailing sense of justice. In addition, over these past eight years, the Archdiocese has been forthcoming and taken steps to keep our children safe through training and background screenings.''

Dennehy worked at Cardinal Gibbons from 1961 to 1973. He also worked at Christopher Columbus High School, Archbishop Curley Notre Dame High School, St. John's Preparatory School, St. John Vianney Seminary and St. Brendan High School. Dennehy was also the assistant director of the archdiocese's Catholic youth organization. He retired in 1993.



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