Archdiocese to Be Hit with Another Abuse Suit

By Patti Mengers
Daily Times
March 29, 2011

The family of a Bucks County man who claims he committed suicide after Archdiocese of Philadelphia officials dismissed his allegation of clerical sexual abuse is expected to file a wrongful death suit against the archdiocese today.

The family alleges the man, who was 36 when he died, was molested by the Rev. Joseph Gallagher while he was an altar boy at St. Mark parish in Bristol, Bucks County. Gallagher served as assistant pastor at the former St. Michael's Church in Chester from June 1970 until October 1974.

Now retired, Gallagher was last listed by archdiocesan officials as pastor emeritus at St. Richard parish in Northeast Phialdelphia since October 2006. He is currently relieved of his priestly duties and living in a private residence while an archdiocesan team led by former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Gina Maisto Smith, reviews the sexual abuse allegations.

He was among 24 priests suspended last month by archdiocesan officials after they were mentioned as suspects in a Philadelphia grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse of children. The grand jury accused archdiocesan officials of downplaying at least two complaints that Gallagher molested boys including one identified as "Ben" whose family is expected to file the wrongful death suit. His family maintains that Ben committed suicide after archdiocesan officials dismissed his abuse allegations that he made to them in 2007.

Attorneys in the case are Dan Monhan of Chester County and Marci Hamilton of Bucks County who are working in conjunction with Jeff Anderson, an internationally-known expert in sexual abuse litigation based in St. Paul, Minn. They are also representing Frank Finnegan of Collingdale in a lawsuit against archdiocesan officials in connection with alleged abuse when he was a boy at St. Francix Xavier parish, Philadelphia, by the now-late Rev. John Kline.

The recent grand jury investigation, that was launched by District Attorney Seth Williams, resulted in the Feb. 10 arrest of two priests, one former priest and a former Catholic school lay teacher for sexually assaulting two boys in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Also arrested for endangering the welfare of children was the Rev. Monsignor William Lynn, who, as secretary of the clergy under the former Philadelphia archbishop, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, was responsible for investigating clerical sexual abuse. He is reportedly the highest ranking U.S. church official ever charged with child endangerment.

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