Lawsuit: Former Cobb Priest Sexually Abused Boy during Previous Church Assignment

By Jon Gargis
Marietta Daily Journal
December 28, 2018

A former altar boy is suing the Cobb-based Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta alleging that church officials remained silent over the sexual abuse he and others suffered over the span of several decades.

The suit filed by a man using the placeholder name “Phillip Doe” claims that he had been sexually molested by his priest, Father J. Douglas Edwards, in the 1970s. While Edwards’ long career in the archdiocese saw him last serve at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Kennesaw from 1987 to 1989, the alleged acts of molestation occurred while Edwards was the priest at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Dalton.

Edwards had a house on Lake Allatoona in Acworth, to which “he took groups of boys” from the Dalton church, the suit alleges, including the complainant, who claims to have been molested by Edwards about eight to 10 times from at least 1976 through 1978 during his service as an altar boy from about age 12 to 15.

“As a result of the sexual abuse, Plaintiff has throughout his life suffered from a variety of emotional and psychological problems including but not limited to embarrassment, shame, anger and depression. Plaintiff also experienced a loss of faith and spirituality which were bedrocks of his life prior to the abuse,” the lawsuit states.

Edwards died in 1997, the archdiocese previously announced.

The suit goes on to allege that St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the archdiocese and its chief executive, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, have known about priests such as Edwards but “actively concealed the identities of sexual predators and allowed them to remain in unsuspecting communities, exposed to innocent children, for decades.”

Filed last week in the Superior Court of Cobb County, the suit seeks through a jury trial an unspecified amount of general and punitive damages, interest on any damages awarded, attorneys’ fees and “further relief” as the court deems proper.

The suit follows the archdiocese’s release last month of a list of 15 priests, deacons, seminarians and other religious staff accused of sexual abuse within the archdiocese or elsewhere “in a spirit of transparency and the hope of continued healing for the survivors of abuse,” Gregory wrote in a statement accompanying the list. The release did not go into specific allegations against any of the named clergy, such as the number of incidents alleged, where they occurred or when, but says that the list covers the period from the establishment of the Diocese of Atlanta in 1956 — it became an archdiocese six years later — to the present.

Among the seven priests on the list was Edwards, who in addition to St. Joseph’s and St. Catherine of Siena had served in 12 other churches following his 1961 ordination, according to the archdiocese.

A call to the main phone number listed on the archdiocese’s website announced that it closed for the Christmas holiday the afternoon of Dec. 21 and would not reopen until Jan. 2.

Requests for comment and/or copies of any filed legal responses were declined Friday by Paula Gwynn Grant, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

“I’ll be happy to handle your request next week when we’re back in the office,” Grant told the MDJ.









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