Women Accuse John Mcgann, Late Long Island Bishop, of Sexual Abuse
February 16, 2019
|Bishop John McGann in June 1996, when he was head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Photo Credit: Newsday / Jim Peppler|
A lawyer representing two women who allege they were sexually abused as girls by the late Bishop John R. McGann and others in the Rockville Centre diocese made their stories public Tuesday with a list of demands.
The women, in their 60s now, said the abuse happened for years in the 1960s and 1970s. Their lawyer and a nonprofit group that aids victims of clergy sexual abuse detailed the allegations at a news conference.
The group has approached the state attorney general for an investigation, they said. They want the diocese to release all documents it has pertaining to sexual abuse by the men. They also want McGann to be posthumously defrocked and his name removed from any schools, programs or scholarships.
The women are represented by Mitchell Garabedian, of Boston, an attorney who had represented hundreds of sexual abuse victims in the Boston area during the sexual abuse scandal involving Catholic priests there. The New Jersey-based group Road to Recovery helped organize the news conference.
"We take all allegations seriously," diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan said in a statement after the news conference Tuesday. "Allegations concerning one victim were brought to our attention by Mr. Garabedian on Friday; and those allegations were immediately reported to the Nassau County DA’s office the same day."
One woman claims to have been sexually abused by McGann, then monsignor and auxiliary bishop, Msgr. Edward L. Melton and the Rev. Robert L. Brown while they were assigned to St. Agnes parish in Rockville Centre, according to a news release from Road to Recovery. All the men are deceased.
The second woman claims to have been sexually abused as a girl by then-Msgr. McGann, Melton and parish janitor John Hanlon while they were assigned to the Parish of St. Agnes in Rockville Centre. Hanlon could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.
The Nassau County police have not been contacted about the allegations, a spokesman said. The police will decide what action is proper after the news conference, he said.
McGann was the second bishop of the diocese, one of the largest in the United States with 1.5 million Catholics, from 1976 until his mandatory resignation due to age in 1999. He retired in 2000 and died at age 77 in 2002.
Over the weekend, Pope Francis defrocked former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, of Washington, D.C., after the Vatican found him guilty of sex abuse. McCarrick is the highest-ranking member of the Catholic Church to be laicized, or dismissed.
In September, Newsday reported that nearly 300 men and women would be compensated by the Diocese of Rockville Centre for the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of priests, in some cases decades ago. It established a special compensation program in fall 2017.
Last year, a Pennsylvania man said he warned McGann and the Catholic Church nearly 40 years ago about the priest who abused him in the diocese, but no one listened. Starting in 1980, John Salveson wrote letters to McGann, saying that the Rev. Robert Huneke sexually abused him for seven years beginning in 1969 when Salveson was 13 at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Oyster Bay, according to Salveson and a lawsuit filed against the diocese.
The lawsuit cited a letter Salveson wrote to McGann in February 1980, informing the bishop that Huneke had abused him. McGann wrote back in August 1980, stating that he had spoken with Huneke, who assured the bishop he had been receiving counseling and stated, “that this matter had not been a problem for over a period of approximately two years.”
McGann took no action against Huneke, who died in 2002, the lawsuit states. Alarmed, Salveson wrote back in September 1980, asking McGann to do something about Huneke’s placement at Christ the King Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida. McGann eventually wrote back in April 1981, saying he had “neither the right nor the responsibility to bring this matter to the attention of the Diocese in which Father [Huneke] is serving,” according to a letter quoted in the lawsuit.
Huneke went on to abuse a child at his new parish, a lawsuit filed on behalf of the second victim alleged.