7 Victims Name Priests Who Sexually Abused Them As Children
By Sharon Otterman
New York Times
May 18, 2017
Seven men who were abused as children by priests of the Archdiocese of New York revealed on Thursday some of the details of the settlements they had received through the archdiocese’s new sexual abuse survivor compensation fund.
Since October, more than 100 victims have settled their sex abuse cases with the archdiocese by taking their claims to the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. But very few details have been revealed because the program keeps the cases confidential, and no victims have yet spoken out.
The seven victims who revealed details on Thursday did so through their lawyer, J. Michael Reck. He said that they had received settlements of $150,000 to $350,000 each from the archdiocese. And he named the men’s abusers, saying his clients hoped that other possible victims would come forward and file claims.
“It’s a public safety imperative, because these are individuals who in many cases have an extended history in the archdiocese,” Mr. Reck said.
The abuse in each of the seven cases took place in the 1970s and 1980s, but nearly all the priests continued to work until the 2000s or beyond. None of the priests are in active ministry, and five have been laicized, meaning they are no longer priests, the archdiocese said.
The seven victims sought settlements through the compensation program because under New York State law, they can no longer sue or bring criminal cases for their abuse. Despite years of efforts to change the law, New York has one of the most restrictive statutes of limitations for child sex abuse victims in the nation, requiring that victims bring criminal or civil charges before they turn 23.
All six priests have been mentioned in past news media reports as suspects in abuse, though in some cases the archdiocese has said it was still investigating the abuse claims. Their employment histories were provided by Mr. Reck but were not confirmed by the archdiocese.
They include the Rev. John O’Keefe, who worked at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx from 1976 to 1991, and was the president of Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, N.Y., from 1992 until 2004. He was then the pastor of St. Margaret of Antioch Parish in Pearl River, N.Y., for a decade before he was permanently removed over abuse allegations; he was laicized last year.
|The Rev. Richard Gorman in 2006. He was suspended from ministry in 2016 after allegations of sexual abuse emerged.|
The Rev. Richard Gorman was the chairman of Community Board 12 in the Bronx and worked at Cardinal Spellman High School for more than 20 years. He was suspended from ministry in 2016 after allegations of sexual abuse emerged. The canonical case against him continues.
The Rev. Peter Kihm, who was laicized in 2016, bounced among parishes in Dutchess, Rockland and Westchester Counties for 34 years before being removed from his final parish, Good Shepherd in Rhinebeck, N. Y., because of multiple allegations of abuse.
The Rev. Gennaro “Jerry” Gentile was moved through seven different parishes through the 1970s and 1980s. He was sued by the families of two victims in 1997, and removed from ministry in 2002 when a confidential settlement was reached. He was laicized in 2005.
The Rev. Ralph LaBelle, who was accused by two of Mr. Reck’s clients, worked in parishes in the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan. He was removed from Sacred Heart in Patterson, N.Y., in 2002 after several victims came forward, and was laicized in 2005.
The Rev. Francis Stinner worked in high schools in Goshen and Somers, N.Y., through the 1970s and 1980s. A parent first reported abuse allegations in 1988, but the archdiocese did not open an investigation until 1997. He was also laicized in 2005.
The seven cases were among 145 considered in the first phase of the compensation program, which weighed cases already known to church authorities, said Camille S. Biros, an administrator of the program. Of those, 118 victims have accepted settlements, in that way releasing the archdiocese of any further liability.
The second phase of the program is underway for new claims. So far, 154 people have submitted claims, of which 42 are eligible to move forward, Ms. Biros said.
The program considers only cases of abuse committed by archdiocesan priests and deacons, not members of religious orders or lay people working in the archdiocese. New claims must be submitted by July 31, she said.
Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said that he hoped the news conference encouraged more victims to submit claims and that he had no problem with victims’ wanting to publicize their abusers.
Participants in the program “have the absolute right to speak about their abuse and their abuser at any time, to whomever they want, however they want,” he said.