Holy Cross hit with lawsuit from former student who alleges sexual abuse 50-plus years ago
The Monmouth Journal
January 10, 2020
Holy Cross School in Rumson has been hit with a lawsuit by a former student claiming that a nun at the school sexually abused her more than half a century ago.
Carole Clark, of Cliffside Park, claims in the lawsuit filed in Monmouth County Superior Court that she attended the school from kindergarten to seventh grade “in the 1960s.”
According to the lawsuit, filed by attorney Eric G. Kahn, when Clark was in first grade at Holy Cross, Sister Mary Nazareen, a teacher at the school at the time, “coerced and/or forced” Clark “to engage in improper sexual conduct during the school year when (Clark) was in the first grade.”
The lawsuit further claims that Sister Mary Nazareen “engaged in improper sex acts, sexual assault, sexual contact and sexual abuse” of Clark, while on the grounds of Holy Cross School while Clark was in the first grade.
The lawsuit names Holy Cross School, Holy Cross Parish and the Diocese of Trenton as defendants. It states Clark has suffered “severe and permanent personal and emotional injuries” as a result of the abuse.
The lawsuit seeks judgment against the school, parish and diocese and compensation for damages, together with interest and costs of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also states Holy Cross School, Parish and the Diocese of Trenton, “should have known that Sister Mary Nazareen was not properly qualified to serve as a teacher at Holy Cross School and had the propensity for sexual contact and/or sexual abuse of students such as Plaintiff, Carole Clark.”
The lawsuit does not explain why the school, parish and diocese should have known the nun had the “propensity” to commit sexual abuse against students.
Holy Cross Business Administrator Tom Dooley referred all questions to Joseph Biachi, Executive Director of Child & Youth Protection for the Diocese of Trenton.
Biachi declined comment and referred all questions to Rayanne Bennett, Executive Director of Communications & Media for the Diocese of Trenton, who said, “The Diocese only recently learned of the allegations that you are referring to and it is being reported to the Attorney General’s Office and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office in keeping with our policy.”
She added, “We have not yet been served with the lawsuit, but we do not comment on matters of litigation.”
Asked if the nun in question, Sister Mary Nazareen, was still alive, Bennett reiterated the diocese does not comment on pending litigation.
Kahn, the attorney for Clark, was asked via email if his client ever brought up these allegations in the past 50-plus years since the incident allegedly happened, as well as why the school, parish and diocese should have known Nazareen “had a propensity” for sexual contact/abuse. Kahn replied via email over the weekend that he would contact a reporter on Monday to answer the questions. He has not returned emails or phone calls since.
Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Public Information Officer Christopher Swendeman said yesterday his office had received the information regarding the matter from the diocese, but that they had no further comment at this time.
A new law that became effective Dec. 1, 2019 in New Jersey expands the statute of limitations for filing civil sex abuse lawsuits.
Previously, New Jersey gave minors who were victims of sexual abuse two years from their 18th birthday or two years from the date the victim learned of their injury — whichever is later — to file suit.
The law now allows child victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits until they ar 55, or 7 years from the date they became aware of the abuse, whichever is later. It also allows adult victims of sexual abuse, whatever their age, to file a lawsuit within 7 years from the time of the discovery of the abuse. The new law also opens up a two-year window for victims to file their claims who were previously barred from filing a lawsuit due to the statute of limitations lapsing.
The law also now permits lawsuits to include organizations that were historically immune from same, such as public schools and not-for-profit private schools.