Ex-maryknoll Priest Faces Sexual Abuse Allegation in Religious Order Previously Cited
By Frank Esposito
Rockland/Westchester Journal News
June 13, 2019
A new filing in New York Supreme Court alleges a former Maryknoll priest in Westchester County abused a young boy for about eight years throughout the 1960s.
But this case is different.
Ralph Gallagher, the victim, took his own life. Now his family is taking action on his behalf.
The alleged perpetrator, Ed Flanagan, a priest who served at the Church of Saint John and Saint Mary in Chappaqua, died in 2016.
Now attorney Barbara Hart, of Lowey Dannenberg in White Plains, is asking for a third party to be brought in to keep track of records and notify other potential victims about the case.
|The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers seminary building in Ossining, on Nov. 3, 2015 (Photo: David McKay Wilson/The Journal News)|
This latest filing on June 7 comes after the February signing of the Child Victims Act. The act provides a one-year, one-time-only period to seek civil action, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
That window to file opens in August, but this filing asks that the court appoint a special third-party to preserve records and assume other related duties.
With a dead plaintiff and a dead alleged perpetrator, that window is becoming worrisome for Hart.
Preserving documents about Flanagan's placement is key for Hart. Despite Gallagher's death, others may still benefit from knowing Flanagan's whereabouts while he was with the church, and that there are allegations against him.
The many Maryknollers
Flanagan sexually abused Gallagher from age 4 to 11, according to the court filing, while a member of the Ossining-based Maryknoll missionary group.
During the 1960s, someone had prescribed psychological counseling for Flanagan, but his superiors allowed him to continue working with children and families, according to court documents.
Robert Ambrose, chief operating officer of Maryknoll, was surprised by claims against Flanagan.
"We have not been made aware of these claims, we will cooperate with the investigation once we are," Ambrose said.
But Flanagan isn't the only accused sex abuser from the Maryknoll order, according to a report by a New York law firm. Maryknoll housed many alleged abusive priests in New York, according to a report by Jeff Anderson and Associates released in 2018.
The report lists the priests and their stations in New York. These priests have already had credible claims brought against them in the past and some have entries on the BishopAccountibily.org database, an organization that tracks religious sexual abuse cases.
The following is a list of the priests, the accusations against them and their stations in New York:
Father Joseph Avery was accused of abusing a boy in Hawaii during the 1970s.
St. Theresa’s Residence, Ossining for a year before his death in 1997
Father Francis Daubert, was accused of abusing an 11-year-old boy in Hawaii during the late 1960s. Daubert was moved around the county before coming to New York.
St. Theresa’s Residence, Ossining from 1972 to 1974
Phelps Memorial Hospital, Sleepy Hollow from 1975 to 1978
St. Theresa Avilla Church, Tarrytown from 1979 to 1981
St. Theresa’s Residence, Ossining 1982 to his death in 1983
Father Joseph Michael Henry was placed at Ossining in 1935 and 1945 before shipping off to Hawaii in 1950, where he allegedly abused boys at a church there until his death in 1974.
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Ossining 1935
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Ossining 1945
Father James Jackson was accused of abusing boys at churches in Hawaii during the 1950s before coming to New York.
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Ossining from 1999 to 2003
Archdiocese of New York 2004 until his death in 2005
Father Walter Johnson allegedly abused boys in Hawaii during the 1950s before being moved around the world, then to New York.
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Ossining from 1992 to 1994
St. Theresa’s Residence, Ossining from 2005 to 2013
Whereabouts unknown between 2014 and his death in 2018
Father Edward Mueth was accused of abusing multiple children at the same church as Father Henry in the 1950s before coming to New York.
St. Theresa’s Residence, Ossining 1976
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Ossining from 1982 until his possible death in 1983
These clerics all died before Ambrose took over in 2006, so he declined to comment on those situations.
|The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers seminary in Ossining (Photo: Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News)|
Leaving the church for another calling
In 1969, Flanagan left the priesthood and began to follow the teachings of a popular mystic of the 1960s and 1970s, Meher Baba.
Meher Baba was a spiritual leader who claimed to be God in human form, and remained voluntarily mute from 1925 until his death in 1969. He would use a board with letters on it to spell out what he wanted to communicate.
Among Meher Baba's other followers were Peter Townshend of The Who, and David Overton, founder and CEO of The Cheesecake Factory.
Townshend wrote a 1970 Rolling Stone magazine cover piece titled "In Love with Meher Baba, by Pete Townshend."
Overton on several occasions, and in interviews said that he was a follower of Meher Baba.
Flanagan was interviewed about his life on a Los Angeles public access television show, The Meher Baba Program, in 2008.
The show's host, Fred Stankus, introduced Flanagan as former missionary priest, writer-actor and bioenergy healer.
From that 2008 interview, Hart sees a predator in hindsight.
"He's got all the earmarks of a very manipulative, serial abuser when you see him on those video tapes with what we know now," Hart said.
Hart thinks that Flanagan's abuse didn't stop at Gallagher.
"I have concerns that Ed Flanagan left a wake of victims in his path," Hart said, adding she hopes this case can help uncover more of the survivors.
Watch the full 2008 Flanagan interview here: