Dunkirk Church Named in New Child Victims Act Suit
By Eric Tichy
August 4, 2020
The former pastor of a Dunkirk church is being accused of sexually abusing a child in the 1960s in a new Child Victims Act lawsuit filed Monday.
The complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court in Chautauqua County, names the former St. Mary’s Church as a defendant. The victim claims to have been abused by the Rev. Maurus Schenck between 1962 and 1968 when the victim was about 12 to 17 years old.
“Plaintiff was a parishioner and participated in youth activities and/or church activities at St. Mary,” the suit claims. “Plaintiff, therefore, developed great admiration, trust, reverence, and respect for the Roman Catholic Church, including Defendants and their agents, including Fr. Schenck.”
The victim is being represented by the New York City-based Jeff Anderson & Associates and attorney Steve Boyd of Williamsville.
Schenck was one of dozens of priests tied to misconduct complaints and identified in leaked Diocese documents. According to multiple media reports, the former pastor was also accused of abusing a then-13-year-old at St. Mary’s around 1965.
Elsewhere, two Child Victims Act lawsuits were filed late last week for abuse said to have taken place at a Jamestown church in the early 1960s and mid-’70s. Both complaints name Ss. Peter and Paul Church and Holy Apostles as defendants.
One victim, only identified as “AB 279 DOE,” claims they were sexually abused by the Rev. John D. Lewandowski from about 1962 to 1963. The victim was about 13 to 14 years old when the alleged abuse took place.
Lewandowski, who died in 1982, has been previously named by the Diocese of Buffalo as a priest accused of child sexual abuse. He was named in a Child Victims Act suit filed in October 2019 by a Jamestown man who said he was abused when he was about 13 years old.
Ss. Peter and Paul Church and Holy Apostles were also named in a suit filed by a victim claiming to have been abused between 1973 and 1974 when they were 7 to 8 years old by the Rev. Martin Pavlock. The victim, identified as “AB 301 DOE,” is also being represented by Jeff Anderson & Associates and attorney Steve Boyd.
Pavlock was also named by the Diocese as person accused of sexual abuse. The former pastor served at several churches from 1967 to about 2003, including many within Chautauqua County.
WINDOW OFFICIALLY EXTENDED
People who were sexually abused as children will have more time to file legal claims under a new state law against individuals and public and private institutions after concerns that the pandemic was keeping survivors from coming forward.
Advocates and survivors had been pressing for an extension of the Child Victims Act amid the shutdown and disruption caused by the virus, including the closure of courts. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday he signed the latest extension of Aug. 14, 2021, for the legislation.
The law lifted the statute of limitations even for allegations that were decades old, initially for a filing period of one year. New York’s law allows individuals to file civil lawsuits for childhood sexual abuse before they reach 55 years of age.
“After fighting for the law’s passage for 13 long years, many feared the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the courts meant that the clock had run out on their opportunity to seek justice,” Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat said.
The original deadline for those making claims under the Child Victims Act was Aug. 14, 2020. Cuomo initially moved the deadline to Jan. 14 with an executive order, and the new extension would extend it to Aug. 14.