Priest Knew of Deluca Abuse

By Sean O'Sullivan
News Journal
November 2, 2010

DOVER -- St. Elizabeth's Parish officials, including a priest who is now part of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, had clear suspicions about defrocked priest Francis DeLuca's abuse of young boys at the time it happened in the late 1960s, according to one abuse victim who testified Monday in the priest abuse civil lawsuit brought by John Vai.

The man, identified as "John Doe 18," said he was confronted by Monsignor Thomas Cini, who was then a parish priest at St. Elizabeth's, in 1968-69 and was warned to stay away from DeLuca.

Doe, who is now 59, told a jury that Cini told him that DeLuca was "in trouble" and that by hanging out with DeLuca, "I was tempting him."

Doe said Cini then told him he should have known better and if Doe had to speak to anyone about his "emotions," he should only speak to Cini.

Doe said Cini never specifically mentioned the inappropriate sexual relationship that had been going on between DeLuca and Doe, who was then a teenager, but he said it was implied from their conversation.

"He knew," Doe said.

In previous sworn depositions, and in Bankruptcy Court proceedings this summer, Cini denied knowledge of DeLuca's abuse of young boys. Cini declined to comment Monday, through a spokesman, but he is expected to testify later during the trial.

Doe's testimony came during the third day of the civil lawsuit brought by Vai against St. Elizabeth's and DeLuca under the Delaware Child Victims Act, which temporarily suspended the statute of limitations on cases of childhood sexual abuse to allow civil suits seeking damages to be filed.

Three other victims of priest abuse took the stand Monday. Two spoke about how they were abused by a predecessor of DeLuca's at St. Elizabeth's, the Rev. Alfred Lind, who left the priesthood in 1967 and died in 1996.

There was also another anonymous victim of DeLuca who testified.

John Doe 18, and the two victims of Lind -- Philip Saggione and Patrick Nagle, both retired Wilmington police officers -- testified that the priests lured them into sexual relationships by providing access to their flashy cars.

In his videotaped deposition, DeLuca admitted to knowing Lind and serving with him briefly in one parish.

However, when DeLuca was asked if he ever discussed abusing boys with Lind, DeLuca refused to answer, citing the sacred "seal" of a confessional.

Lind, when he arrived at St. Elizabeth's in 1965, had a white Corvette, said Saggione, who was in eighth grade at the time.

Nagle, who like Saggione has a lawsuit pending against the parish, said in a video deposition that Lind appeared to be a young, "hip" priest -- someone they could trust -- and he offered them a chance to ride in and drive his car.

Afterward, the two testified that Lind brought them up to his bedroom at the rectory, gave them pornographic magazines to look at and then playfully wrestled with them on the bed. However, it turned into molestation when Lind pinned each down in turn and reached down their pants, according to testimony.

Similarly, Doe testified that shortly after arriving at St. Elizabeth's in 1966, DeLuca got a new car -- a blue Camaro -- and he soon started offering rides to boys at St. Elizabeth High, usually to away games for the school's sports teams.

Doe said that when he turned 16, DeLuca even let him drive. He also said that DeLuca usually sat in the back and overloaded the car with boys so a boy ended up sitting on DeLuca's lap.

Doe said DeLuca would molest him in the car and often would furnish him with beer and cigarettes. "It was always dark," Doe said, and the molestation usually took place after they returned from a game.

He said it would usually start with DeLuca massaging his leg and progress from there, up to and including oral sex. "I don't know why I kept going back, but I did," Doe said in a wavering voice.

Doe said he is not using his name because he is still afraid of humiliation and retaliation. And though he spoke with an attorney before the Child Victims Act deadline passed, he said he chose not to file a lawsuit as he tries to put the issue behind him.

But he told attorney Raeann Warner, who led his questioning Monday, that he agreed to testify at Vai's trial because he knew parish officials were saying something different than he recalled and he wanted the record set straight.

Doe said DeLuca abused him from his sophomore year through his senior year at St. Elizabeth High School.

It was in his senior year, Doe testified, that he realized others at St. Elizabeth's were aware or strongly suspected DeLuca had improper relationships with young boys.

Doe said he was driving DeLuca's Camaro back to the church on a weekend, with some other boys and DeLuca, when he saw the parish pastor come out of a basement door, shouting at DeLuca.

The pastor was "yelling and waving his arms, saying, 'I told you ... you told me you wouldn't do this anymore. What are they doing in the car? What were you doing?' " Doe said, adding that a second parish priest was also there. During the argument, Doe said, he fled.

The next school day, Doe said, he was confronted by Cini -- his religion instructor -- in a hallway at the high school. "I was afraid I was in a lot of trouble. ... I thought I was getting kicked out of school," he said.

Just before the incident, Doe said, the school had adopted a new policy that forbade any student from going to away games in a private car -- they were all supposed to ride the school-chartered bus.

Cini "asked me if I had anything I wanted to talk about and said if I did, I should talk to him about it," Doe said. "Father Cini told me that Father DeLuca was in trouble and that by me riding with him, or being with him, I was tempting him. ... I was part of the problem DeLuca was having and I should know better than to be putting myself in that position with DeLuca."

Testimony is expected to resume Wednesday before the jury and Superior Court President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr.

Contact Sean O'Sullivan at 324-2777 or

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