Metuchen Diocese Looks to Settle Mentally Disabled Manís Clergy Sexual Abuse Case

By Nick Muscavage
Bridgewater Courier News
July 29, 2020

The Diocese of Metuchen has offered to settle a lawsuit brought by a mentally disabled man who claims he was sexually abused by priest in the basement of St. James Catholic Church in Woodbridge nearly three decades ago.

The priest, the Rev. Kevin P. Duggan, took the man to a private area of the basement of St. James on Amboy Avenue on two separate occasions and pulled the man's pants and underwear down to his ankles and touched his penis, according to the lawsuit.

The man, who is only identified in the lawsuit by his initials, has a mental capacity of a 12-year-old child, according to court documents.

The now 54-year-old man said the abuse occurred when he was 25 and 26 around 1990, according to the lawsuit.

Duggan, who died in 2017 at the age of 63, would have been around 36 at the time.

"Though we are unable to comment directly on the lawsuit, as the matter is pending litigation, we can say that as soon as the allegation was brought to our attention, our protocol was immediately followed and the Diocese of Metuchen cooperated fully with the Middlesex County Prosecutorís Office," Anthony P. Kearns III, spokesperson and chancellor for the Diocese of Metuchen, said in a statement.

Kearns said the person who filed the complaint was offered counseling, as is the diocese's practice in all cases when someone comes forward to report abuse by a member of clergy within the diocese. He also said Duggan was "immediately suspended from priestly ministry and then subsequently died of natural causes, having never returned to active ministry.

"While the alleged crimes date back to the 1990s, the allegation is nevertheless horrific," Kearns added.

The lawsuit was originally filed in Superior Court in Middlesex County in June 2019 and requested the judge to appoint a legal guardian to the man because of his mental capacity. It was then transferred to probate court before being reinstated in superior court.

The man's sister was appointed by the court to serve as his legal guardian.

The lawsuit names the Diocese of Metuchen and St. James Church as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the man lived in Woodbridge at the time he said the abuse occurred and frequently attended mass at St. James. He also served as an altar boy.

Duggan was "respected and admired" by the man's family and "held power and influence over him." After he sexually abused the man, Duggan instructed him "not to tell anyone what he did," according to the lawsuit.

The man, whose neurological impairment was diagnosed when he was in kindergarten, also suffers from chronic paranoid schizophrenia. He did not come forward with his abuse claims until 2013 when he told his sisters of the abuse for the first time, according to the lawsuit. He explained that he was scared to tell anyone before.

After disclosing the abuse to his sisters, the man, who now lives in a group home in San Diego, "began to hear voices that told him to touch himself and suffocate himself," according to the lawsuit.

He was admitted to a mental health facility and discussed the abuse with an intake nurse, who then contacted San Diego authorities, according to the lawsuit.

The Diocese of Metuchen was then advised of the allegations and launched an internal investigation that found the claims to be "credible," according to the lawsuit.

Shortly after the abuse was reported to the diocese, Duggan took a leave of absence from the church "for treatment of alcoholism."

"Even after the Diocese became aware of the allegations that form the basis of this complaint, it sent a letter to the Parishioners of St. James on November 1, 2013 advising them that 'Fr. Duggan remains your pastor and needs your spiritual support as much today as in the past,'" according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges negligence by the Diocese of Metuchen and claims that diocesan officials "knew or should have known" Duggan was abusing the man and other potential victims and "was not fit to serve as a priest."

Because of the abuse, the man suffers permanent injuries such as emotional distress, humiliation and low self-esteem, according to the lawsuit. The effects of the abuse have led to in-patient hospitalizations and "a severe exacerbation of pre-existing mental health issues," which will continue to need treatment.

His mental state prevented him from coming forward with the abuse sooner, according to the lawsuit.

On July 8, David Cedar, the attorney representing the man in court, wrote a letter to the judge indicating that the Diocese of Metuchen has made a settlement offer that is acceptable to the man and his family.

He requested a court hearing to approve the settlement.

A hearing date has not yet been slated and the terms of the settlement were not made public.

According to the lawsuit, Duggan served at six parishes in Diocese of Metuchen.

Duggan was ordained in 1987 and suspended in 2013, according to the law firm of Adam Horowitz. Horowitz has represented dozens of victims in sexual abuse cases.

He was assigned at the following churches, according to Horowitz Law:


Nick Muscavage is a watchdog reporter for the Courier News, Home News Tribune and To get unlimited access to his investigative work that has exposed wrongdoing and changed state law, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.








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