Broward Man Claims Sex Abuse by Nun/teacher

By Mike Clary
Orlando Sentinel
April 13, 2011,0,6038570.story

A Broward County man claims in a lawsuit that a Dominican nun repeatedly groped and fondled him more than 30 years ago when he was in the first grade at St. James Catholic School in North Miami.

The nun was the boy's teacher, said Jeffrey Herman, the attorney who filed the complaint on behalf of the unnamed plaintiff.

Named as defendants in the complaint filed Tuesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court are the Archdiocese of Miami, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Mich., and St. James Catholic School.

"Typically in cases like these, it is male priests who are abusing kids," Herman said Wednesday. "This is unusual because we have a female who was abusing a boy."

In a 20-page complaint, the man identified only as John Doe 73—reflecting the number of complaints by anonymous plaintiffs that Herman has filed against the Miami Archdiocese – alleged that Sister Joan Marie pretended to tuck in John's shirt "and, while doing so, rubbed John's genitals under his clothing and fondle (sic) him."

The abuse took place "approximately twice a week for the entire school year" in 1978 and 1979, according to the complaint, and ended only when John's family moved the following summer.

As a consequence of the alleged abuse, the complaint reads, John "suffered severe and permanent psychological, emotional and physical injuries, shame, humiliation and the inability to lead a normal life."

Herman said he did not know of Sister Joan Marie's whereabouts, or if she is still alive.

Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese, said, "We are not aware of this new lawsuit. However, as in the case of any alleged abuse, we immediately extend pastoral and psychological counseling to the alleged victim to begin the healing process."

She added that anyone who has been a victim of clergy sexual abuse should call the church's hotline at 1-866-802-2873.

Former priests assigned to St. James Catholic School in the 1970s have been named in several lawsuits filed by Herman. Among them was one alleging sexual abuse by the Rev. Anthony Mercieca on a 15-year-old boy in 1977.

"In my estimation this school, and this church, was a hotbed of sexual abuse during this time period," said Herman. 305-810-5507


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