Delbarton Abuse Victim Seeks Gag Order Release
By John Dunphy
June 29, 2012
Another person has come forward in the ongoing saga of allegations against Delbarton School and St. Mary's Abbey involving years of alleged sexual abuse.
Except in this case, the person coming forward did not make a new allegation.
But, for "John Doe," as his attorney Gregory Gianforcaro referred to him, a confidentiality agreement in place since settling in 1988 has kept the victim silent following former Monk Timothy Brennan's guilty plea in 1987.
On Friday, in front of the Morris County Courthouse, Gianforcaro said his client wants to break the silence that has been legally required of him for 24 years. The confidentiality agreement was, according to the school and abbey's attorneys at the time, in the best interests of the school, Brennan and the student whom Brennan had admitted in court to abusing.
"John Doe" actually first expressed desire to speak about the abuse he suffered at the hands of Brennan in 2002. That prompted a swift response from Delbarton's and St. Mary's Abbey legal representation at the time.
"'Our potential damages are very real here,'" Gianforcaro quoted the statement from their legal team at the time. "'We will vigorously seek to enforce the confidentiality provision.'"
"He was tired of remaining silent," Gianforcaro said of his client. "He desired to want to help others. He knew he was not alone."
The problem with Delbarton's and St. Mary's Abbey's attorneys' reluctance to lift the confidentiality agreement, he said, was that same year, the Morris Township-based Catholic institution had pledged to support the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the charter there is a specific prohibition for confidentiality agreements, unless one is in place at the victim's request.
"It serves no greater good to the community to remain silent," said Mark Crawford, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), himself a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. He cites a primary reason for places like the Abbey for remaining silent. "They have a hallowed, iconic reputation and want to protect it," he said.
Instead of being terminated from his service to the Abbey, Crawford said Brennan was instead moved to Mount Savior Monastery, in central New York. In 2002, he said, Brennan was removed from there and sent to a "penal colony" in Missouri. The current whereabouts of the former monk, now 72, are unknown, he said.
As the case is more than two decades old, and the victim already received compensation at the time, Gianforcaro noted "John Doe" was not looking for any additional monetary compensation, simply the ability to speak publicly about his abuse.
"If he had it his way, he would speak up and scream about it," Crawford said. "Victims are conflicted and feel they are part of the cover up. It's immoral. It's an example of choosing to protect the institution over the protection of the child. That's unacceptable."
In response to Gianforcaro's request that the confidentiality agreement be removed, in a statement he read from the Abbey's attorney Charles Carella, "Two hours is insufficient time to consider your client's request.
"You have not explained the urgency to the Abbey," Carella's statement continued. "We're willing to consider the request and will attempt to convene over the holiday week. ... We are not saying 'no.' We are not saying 'yes.'"
Gianforcaro also read a statement from "John Doe," who recalled his elation as a youth when he discovered he had been accepted to attend the school.
"'I loved Delbarton from the very first time my sister took me to a Green Wave football game,'" Gianforcaro read from the statement.
But, in his freshman year at the school, "John Doe" had trouble fitting in. His parents suggested he reach out to a guidance counselor at the school. That counselor was Brennan.
"'St. Mary's Abbey and Delbarton have the opportunity to live up to the promises they have made repeatedly over the years,'" Gianforcaro read from the statement. "'Begin by treating the victims with the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. Release all victims from their gag orders.'
"'You are God's representatives on Earth, start acting like it,'" he said.