Suit Claims Boy Fondled by Priest

By Jim O'Hara
Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY)
October 27, 1992

A Roman Catholic priest is accused of sexually molesting an 11-year-old boy when he was stationed at St. Paul's Church in Oswego four years ago.

The Rev. Daniel Casey is accused of kissing and sexually fondling the boy and other youths. A $14 million lawsuit filed by the boy and

his mother says Casey stripped and had the boys remove their clothing at Laker Hall swimming pool on the SUNY Oswego campus.

The boy was a student at St. Paul's Elementary School; Casey was director of religious education at the school and associate pastor at St. Paul's Church, according to court papers.

Casey obtained permission from the boy's parents to take him to Laker Hall. The lawsuit claims the boy was abused in the pass-through showers outside the pool. The parents allowed their son to go because of Casey's position as their priest.

The lawsuit also charges that the school, the church and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse knew or should have known of Casey's sexual "propensities."

It claims they "failed to investigate signs, symptoms and behavior ordinarily associated with pedophilia" and placed him in a position where he would have unchaperoned contact with boys. The unsupervised games "were not part of any sanctioned youth program," the lawsuit charges.

Casey's lawyer, David Garber, said Monday that the priest "denies any and all of the accusations, vehemently denies the accusations."

The lawsuit charges that twice between Aug. 1, 1988, and Jan. 31, 1989, Casey engaged in "lewd, lascivious, indecent, offensive, assaultive, depraved, outrageous and negligent conduct" against the boy.

Keith Ackerman, a spokesman for the diocese, would not comment on the lawsuit. He said it is the policy of the church not to discuss matters in litigation.

Ackerman would not say where Casey is or whether he is continuing to minister to children. "The bishop will not be giving any statement on this matter at this time," he said. "I do not have that information, and it cannot be divulged at this time."

Casey could not be reached for comment.

Casey has not been assigned to St. Paul's for several years. Irwin Birnbaum, the lawyer representing the youth and his mother, would not say if his move was related to the sexual abuse allegations. The boy's parents referred all questions to Birnbaum.

An attempt to track Casey through St. Paul's Church resulted in a referral to his parents' home. There was no answer there Monday evening.

Birnbaum said the matter had been referred to police in Oswego, but no criminal charges ever were lodged. Garber said he did not know of any previous allegations against the priest.

Casey was ordained as a deacon in 1975, while seminarian-in-residence at St. John's parish, Liverpool. Later that year, he was ordained a priest and assigned to Blessed Sacrament parish in Johnson City, Broome County.

While enrolled at St. Bernard's Seminary in Rochester, Casey counseled elementary age children and taught religion to mentally retarded youngsters. In 1973 and 1974, before his ordination, he served as pastoral assistant at St. Mary's parish, Auburn.

State Supreme Court Justice William Roy recently dismissed part of the lawsuit that charged Casey with "clergy malpractice," and one section that charged the diocese and school should, as Casey's employers, be held responsible for his acts.

The lawsuit does not say how many other boys were present and involved in the incidents. Birnbaum said this lawsuit is the only one filed so far.

Court papers say the youngster "was threatened with and placed in apprehension on imminent harmful or offensive bodily contact." It is the policy of the Herald-Journal not to identify victims of sexual abuse.

Casey's conduct, the lawsuit says, breached the trust created by his position as a Catholic priest and educator. It further charges that Casey's action was "so shocking and outrageous that it exceeded bounds of decency."

The lawsuit further charges that the church, school and diocese failed to warn the children and their parents who came in contact with Casey, subjecting them to "an unreasonable risk of harm."

His employers should have known better than to allow Casey "to take adolescent and preadolescent boys alone to the Laker Hall gymnasium and swimming pool in the night time," the lawsuit charges.

In his decision, Roy noted the church and diocese had raised questions of First Amendment protections.

Roy, however, rejected their argument that allowing the lawsuit to continue would lead to state control over the future conduct of the affairs of a religious denomination. The judge said that to accept the argument that the church and diocese should not be held liable for placing Casey in his position at St. Paul's "would go beyond First Amendment protection and cloak such bodies with an exclusive immunity greater than that required for the preservation of the principles constitutionally safeguarded."

Roy cited an Ohio Supreme Court decision that found the First Amendment does not protect a religious organization's decision to hire someone it knows is likely to commit a crime.


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