Ex-priest worked in Liverpool middle school for 25 years after teen reported sex abuse
By Chris Baker
December 10, 2018
|Soule Road Middle School in Liverpool, pictured here in a 2012 file photo.|
Photo by Dick Blume
A Catholic priest who resigned following allegations of sexual abuse was able to go on to a 25-year career as a guidance counselor at a Liverpool middle school. He resigned only after the district learned of the allegations in 2003 and threatened to fire him. He died shortly after.
Donald J. Crosby remained in a position to have daily interaction with children after a teen-aged girl reported instances of sexual abuse to his superior, Monsignor H. Charles Sewall, at a Catholic school in 1974.
The victim came forward again, decades later, amid a national reckoning for abusive priests. She was outraged to learn Crosby was no longer a priest but was instead working in a school.
A diocesan spokeswoman said last week the church had no record of the victim's first report, or any records of inappropriate behavior by Crosby. Sewall, it seems, never filed a report, and the school district didn't learn of the allegations until 2003.
Crosby was one of 57 priests with credible allegations of sexual abuse against them who were identified by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse last week. Sewall was also on the list. Both are now dead.
Crosby's abuse came into the public eye only after he died in 2004. A story in The Post-Standard outlined the following series of events, which were confirmed recently in interviews with the victim and a diocesan official.
Valerie Radzisz, who is now 60, said she reported Crosby's abuse to Sewall in 1974 when she was a 15-year-old at Utica Catholic Academy. Sewall was a monsignor there and Crosby was a guidance counselor.
Radzisz said Sewall told her he would take care of it and urged her not to go to police. Sewall told her Crosby admitted to abusing her and other girls, Radzisz said in a letter to the diocese and the Oneida County District Attorney's Office in May 2002.
The diocese has no record of any allegations against Crosby, according to diocese spokeswoman Danielle Cummings.
Crosby resigned from the priesthood in 1975. Soon after, he got a job as a guidance counselor at Soule Road Middle School. Sewall wrote him a letter of recommendation for that job.
In 1988, the diocese paid to settle a sexual abuse lawsuit against Sewall. In 2002, three men filed lawsuits against him, claiming sexual abuse in the 1970s. He admitted to abusing a male student in 2002 and the diocese removed him from ministry.
Radzisz went to the Oneida County District Attorney in 2002 after learning about Sewall's admission. She said she also called the diocese about Crosby at the time. Cummings said she had no record of a report in 2002, but was contacted by Radzisz in 2003.
Cummings said the diocese would not have had a way to know Crosby was working in a school, and only learned of his alleged misdeeds in 2003. Once Crosby left the clergy, the diocese had no reason to keep tabs on him. There were no reports of inappropriate behavior on file for Crosby, since Sewall didn't bring them to superiors.
Radzisz said she learned Crosby was working at a school during the course of the Oneida DA's investigation. She had assumed Crosby was still a priest when she first contacted the DA and the diocese.
She was floored to learn he was working in an environment with children. She said she went public at the time because she felt she had a moral obligation to protect other children. She wasn't seeking money - she just wanted Crosby out of the school.
"That this was allowed was beyond disturbing," she said in a recent phone interview. "You couldn't leave children in that kind of situation. We needed to make sure this never happens again."
At least four women came forward to the Oneida County District Attorney's Office during an investigation in 2002 and 2003, detailing sexual abuse by Crosby, according to Post-Standard archives. Two of those women, including Radzisz, signed depositions outlining the abuse.
Crosby was ordained in 1963 and worked at the Utica Catholic Academy. After Radzisz reported him to Sewall, he was named diocesan director of religious instruction for the Syracuse public schools, according to Post-Standard archives.
Crosby resigned from the priesthood in 1975 -- about a year after Radzisz reported him -- and requested laicization in 1980, permanently removing him from the clergy, with approval from the Vatican.
Crosby resigned from Soule Road Middle School in June 2003, two weeks after the district learned of the accusations against him and threatened to fire him. He denied the accusations.
The Liverpool superintendent also reported Crosby to the New York State Office of Teaching after learning of the allegations, according to Post-Standard archives.
Crosby died on Jan. 2, 2004. The school closed on the day of his funeral so staff and faculty could attend.
Crosby's obituary makes no mention of his former career as a priest.
School officials said there were no records of allegations against Crosby during his time in Liverpool.
The diocese has no records of any allegations against Crosby.
Sewall died in 2015.