|Suit Claims "Indy-racing" Priest Abused Boy in 1980s
By Becky Schlikerman
April 14, 2011
A lawsuit filed today in federal court in Chicago accuses a priest known in the Indy car racing community of sexually abusing a boy in the 1980s.
The lawsuit claims the plaintiff, now a 40-year-old Maryland man identified only as John Doe, was abused by the Rev. Philip DeRea for about eight years in Washington, D.C., where both DeRea and the 40-year-old man lived.
The lawsuit also names the Aurora-based Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, claiming DeRea's order was negligent in supervising him.
The Rev. Ray Diesbourg, the provincial of the order, said the group was saddened by the lawsuit. “These allegations are contrary to our mission all to which we profess,” Diesbourg said.
DeRea could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District Court of Illinois because the order is based in Aurora. It is also believed DeRea now lives in Aurora.
According to the complaint, the 40-year-old man had repressed the memories of the sexual abuse, which began when he was 11 years old and lasted for approximately eight years.
DeRea is identified in the complaint a “semi-celebrity priest” who has been the Catholic chaplain for the Indy Racing League since 1971 and an associate of many celebrities, including racing driver Mario Andretti and Paul Newman. The complaint also claims DeRea married actress Ashley Judd to racer Dario Franchitti.
The complaint alleges DeRea used his association with the celebrity and racing world to make the plaintiff feel honored to have a connection with him.
After the 40-year-old graduated from high school, the abuse ceased and he maintained sporadic contact with DeRea, who baptized the plaintiff's two children.
A 2006 “minor incident” involving his son “prompted a flood of memories” about the sexual abuse, according to the complaint.
Since the memories were triggered, the 40-year-old man's life has spiraled downward, going through a divorce, losing his restaurant franchise business and having financial problems, according to the complaint.
The 40-year-old man is seeking damages in excess of $75,000 and a permanent injunction barring DeRea from contact with children.
A lawyer for the order said DeRea has been removed from ministry after the abuse allegations were brought to the attention of the order.
DeRea is currently listed as the Catholic chaplain, part of the staff, on the Indy Racing League Ministry website. The group describes itself as a non-profit organization that helps the car racing community.
Officials with the Indy Racing League could not be reached.
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