Ex-Altar Boy Found Courage to Air Priest's Betrayal

By Dan Moffett
Palm Beach Post [Florida]
June 10, 1998

The 11-year-old altar boy with the wide smile and neatly parted hair could stand it no more.

He sat down with his mother and told her the brutal, graphic details of his unbearable ordeals. He said the parish priest, a trusted family friend, had sexually molested him many times during the weeks before.

Shaken and bewildered, the mother called her husband at the post office where he worked.

"What should we do?" she asked.

"We believe him," the father replied, "because the same thing happened to me when I was a child."

The year was 1967, and Kevin Sidaway's long, anguished recovery had officially begun. The child had made his stand - against the predator rapist, against the Catholic Church, against the insidious problem that ran wider and deeper than he could imagine, damaging one generation, then the next.

Through the following three decades, Sidaway's courage would be tested by the unrelenting memories of his tortured childhood.

"I am constantly flooded with the images of me and my friends having to endure these indignities," Sidaway said this week, his voice trembling. "There is no greater betrayal than having your priest violate you. I have to live with anger every day."

Today, at 42, Sidaway has become, like his father, a postal employee. He delivers mail along the Intracoastal Waterway in Lake Worth, going door to door in the small resort area where people know the people who stay when the snowbirds leave.

Sidaway's name is known because he decided to make it so.

He did not file suit against the Catholic Church and his abuser, the Rev. Rocco D'Angelo, as an anonymous "John Doe." He did it four years ago as Kevin Sidaway.

He has not become the champion for molestation victims by quiet work. He has spoken out loudly. He has spoken out often. And he has spoken with his name: Kevin Sidaway.

"Kevin is a man who has come forward and said one of the hardest things for a man to say," said James G. Souza III, a Tampa attorney who represents four other former altar boys, "John Does," who were victimized by D'Angelo.

"But he stood up and said it anyway. I have never met him, but my clients would like to talk to him to thank him. He gave them the strength to pick up the telephone and come forward, too. If he never does anything in his life, this is something truly great. It was the bravest thing I've ever seen."

More than 10 other victims have since come forward and accused D'Angelo of sexual assaults. Two weeks ago, Sidaway reached an undisclosed settlement of his civil suit against the church. A separate case is pending against D'Angelo, who has admitted assaults against numerous victims.

Last week, the Most Rev. J. Keith Symons, bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach, was forced to step down after admitting he had sexually molested five boys more than three decades ago. Symons had been chancellor of the St. Petersburg Diocese in the 1970s when D'Angelo was transferred there, after leaving St. Mark's Church in Boynton Beach, where he terrorized Sidaway.

"The church covers up its own, one pedophile protecting another," Sidaway said. "There is a mind-set in the church that can blow away the souls of our children. If any of us had the chance to stop the Oklahoma City bombing and save all those lives, the lives of all those children, wouldn't we do it? I did what I did for the same reasons."

The sheer horror of D'Angelo's attacks has left a darkness within Sidaway that 25 years of therapy have tried to remove. He has fought off alcohol and thoughts of suicide. As an altar boy, Sidaway would cinch his wide black leather belt, the uniform of the parochial school, as tight as he could stand it in the hope it would protect him from D'Angelo. The daily struggle now is to harness his rage.

"At first I believed it was Jesus Christ that was raping me," Sidaway said. "I would shake my fist at God. I would literally curse him. I would call him every name in the book. I would tell him to come down from heaven so I could fight him and whip him good."

Sidaway and two of his fellow altar boys first confronted the church in 1967. They sat before three priests in an office at St. Vincent DePaul's on Military Trail in Boynton Beach. Sidaway remembers the exchanges vividly.

"They told us we should forget Father D'Angelo," he said. "They said it was wrong to molest little children. They told us that we should not go out and molest children when we grew up because it was a sin. They asked us if it would be all right with us if Father D'Angelo was sent somewhere where he could never hurt children again. We all nodded yes."

Twenty-five years later, Sidaway learned D'Angelo had not been "sent away" - but transferred to St. Petersburg, where he would claim more victims.

"I was absolutely heartbroken," Sidaway said. "I couldn't understand how the church had allowed more children to be hurt."

Learning that too much time had passed to pursue criminal action against D'Angelo, Sidaway took his anger to civil court and targeted the church hierarchy.

"He was a monster, and they protected him," Sidaway said. "Money will not satiate my anger. But I believe all victims should take every dollar they can from the church. I will continue legal action against D'Angelo. He will be hunted and haunted the rest of his life."

Through the years, Sidaway has developed a formula for living. He confronts each thought as it comes to him, good or bad. "I cannot let the events of the past destroy me," he has said to himself countless times.

He takes comfort in the love of his family, his 21-year-old daughter and his sons, 20 and 19, and draws strength from the devotion of Maureen, his wife of 22 years.

"She has helped me so much," he said. "She always told me: God is not the author of what happened to you."

Sidaway's faith today comes from within. He occasionally attends a Protestant church with Maureen; he reads the Scripture.

"I pretty much turn the pages of the Bible as well as anyone else," he says. "I don't need anyone to preach to me."

Further inspiration comes from that photograph of the 11-year-old with the wide smile and neatly parted hair.

"That child ... I've always felt he has been crying out to me for justice," Sidaway said. "He was the one who gave me the courage to go through this. I couldn't let him down."

Church settlements

The church historically has opted for out-of-court settlements and quiet negotiations with victims of sexual abuse. Many dioceses say settlements are confidential, and insurance companies are reluctant to divulge them for fear of encouraging more claims. Following is a list of lawsuits and settlements available from published reports.


Archdiocese of San Francisco and Diocese of Santa Rosa:

1996 - A jury awarded $ 2.5 million to 15 men who were molested by three priests from 1969 to 1980, when they were between 11 and 18. The priests - Rev. Austin Patrick Keegan, Monsignor Patrick O'Shea and Rev. Gary Timmons - were relieved of their duties. Criminal charges were filed against O'Shea and Timmons, who was sentenced to eight years in prison. [Note from Actually a settlement, not a jury award.]


Denver Archdiocese:

1997 - A man filed a $ 20 million lawsuit against Rev. Marshall Gourley and the archdiocese, saying Gourley molested him from 1981-1984. The suit is pending.

Diocese of Pueblo:

1994 - A suit that said the Rev. Delbert Blong molested him from 1971-1992 and infected him with HIV, was settled out of court. Terms were not disclosed. Blong, who admitted the relationship with the man and was prohibited from performing sacramental duties, later filed a countersuit, claiming that he got HIV from Perea.


Orlando Diocese (includes nine Central Florida counties):

As of 1995, the diocese had spent at least $ 3 million on settlements. Payments in a 1985 case involving Father William Authenrieth account for much of that. The rest took the form of confidential out-of-court settlements.

1983 - The Rev. Eamon O'Dowd was accused of having an affair with a Seminole County parishioner and her 12-year-old daughter. He was charged in 1983 with lewd assault, but the charge was dropped when he entered a pretrial diversion program and received counseling. In 1986, the church paid the Seminole County family $ 250,000 in an out-of-court settlement that prohibits the family from talking about the matter. O'Dowd spent some time at a Lantana church before he retired in 1995.

1985 - The diocese settled out of court for as much as $ 2.5 million with four boys who said the Rev. William Authenrieth sexually abused them between 1978 and 1983. Authenrieth admitted molesting the boys and eventually was forced from the diocese and asked to leave the priesthood.

1994 - The Rev. Arthur Bendixen, once the diocese's No. 3 official as chancellor and former head of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, was suspended in February 1994, four months after the church received a sexual abuse complaint against him. A year later, a former altar boy sued, alleging sexual abuse between 1982-1994 and alleging the diocese failed to recognize signs of Bendixen's sexual activity, particularly after another priest spotted him naked in bed with a young boy in 1978. The diocese has settled out of court several other accusations by men who say they were abused as boys by Bendixen.

1995 - The diocese settled out of court with a man who said he was molested in 1980 at age 15 by retired Volusia priest Lawrence Redmond. Redmond, the former vicar general - a top deputy to the bishop for 3 1/2 years - retired in January 1995, citing heart problems. As many as six other out-of-court settlements have been made with men who claim abuse by Redmond.

1996 - Former priest Thomas Pagni pleaded no contest to 13 charges involving sex acts with children. In 1995, Pagni was charged with molesting three teenage boys in Brevard County, where he worked as a youth and family counselor. The Brevard County suit contends that church officials knew about the allegations against Pagni but continued to move him among various parishes and paid for his training to become a mental health counselor if he left the church.

Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee:

1997 - The Rev. Richard Castillo admitted he engaged in sexual misconduct with four men who accused him of molesting them when they were teenagers. Castillo was relieved of his duties and enrolled in a church-run medical facility.


Diocese of Belleville:

1996 - For the first time since March 1993, the diocese had no sexual abuse cases pending. Thirteen priests and one deacon resigned or were removed from the diocese, all accused of sexually abusing young boys. None was charged with crimes because the statute of limitations had expired in most of the cases.

Archdiocese of Chicago:

1994 - Steven J. Cook, the man who accused Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of sexual abuse then abruptly withdrew the accusation, settled his lawsuit against the Cincinnati Archdiocese and Rev. Ellis Harsham. Cook said Harsham sexually abused him between 1975 and 1977. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but the defendants did not admit wrongdoing. Bernardin was formerly archbishop of Cincinnati.

Diocese of Joliet:

1994 - The diocese agreed to a reported six-figure out-of-court settlement in a case brought by a teenager who was sexually molested by Myles Patrick White, a priest who was sentenced to a four-year prison term for molesting a minor. The settlement released the diocese and White from any further claims. Two other suits against White and the diocese were pending.


Diocese of Lafayette:

1987 - The diocese paid $ 5 million to $ 10 million to settle civil lawsuits brought by at least 13 families of children whom Rev. Gilbert Gauthe molested, and Gauthe spent 10 years in prison. In 1987, a jury awarded $ 1.8 million to one man, who charged that Gauthe molested him when he was an altar boy. Another family was awarded $ 1.25 million in damages in 1986 in a case involving Gauthe. The church also admitted liability in that case. In all, Gauthe has been accused of molesting at least 30 other children between 1974 and 1983 at rural Louisiana church parishes.


Archdiocese of Boston:

1998 - The archdiocese quietly settled 12 lawsuits against it and Rev. John J. Geoghan, a retired priest accused of sexually molesting more then 50 children over three decades, for between $ 2.5 million and $ 10 million. Criminal charges against Geoghan are pending.

Diocese of Fall River:

1992 - A case brought by 68 men and women who had been molested by James R. Porter was settled for at least $ 5 million. Porter, who left Massachusetts around 1967 and quit the priesthood in the early 1970s, also was accused of molesting dozens of children in Minnesota and New Mexico. Other settlements in cases involving Porter include a $ 5.6 million settlement in Minnesota, where 21 people accused him of molesting them in the 1960s and 1970s, and a $ 2 million settlement in New Mexico. In 1993 Porter was convicted in Minneapolis of sexually molesting a 15-year-old babysitter in 1987. He was sentenced to six months in prison.


Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona:

1990 - A jury awarded $ 3.5 million to a man who was molested by former priest Thomas Adamson. The jury agreed diocese officials had failed to remove Adamson, who admitted sexual misconduct with boys in the 1960s and 1970s, when they knew he had a history of sexually abusing boys. The award was later reduced to $ 1 million.


Archdiocese of Santa Fe:

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is home to the Servants of the Paraclete retreat. Priests from around the country were routinely sent to the retreat for treatment of problems such as pedophilia or alcoholism. Priests often were reassigned to New Mexico parishes when they completed their treatment. In 1993, Archbishop Michael Sheehan asked parishioners in an open letter to contribute more money to weekly collection baskets in an effort to pay for some $ 50 million in settlements stemming from 41 lawsuits alleging clergy sexual abuse. At least 20 priests were removed from the ministry in the Santa Fe Archdiocese, and more than 165 abuse cases were settled by the archdiocese.

1991 - The first of a series of lawsuits was filed accusing four New Mexico priests of sexual abuse dating to the 1970s.

1993 - Seventeen men who said they were molested by Jason Sigler agreed to a $ 13 million settlement. Sigler left the priesthood in 1982 after being charged with sexually abusing a child. As of 1993, more than 30 people had sued the archdiocese, saying at least 12 of its priests abused them when they were children.

1994 - The archdiocese settled six lawsuits filed by former altar boys who said ex-priest Jason Sigler abused from 1970-1974, when they were 6 to 12 years old. By 1994, almost 100 people who say they were sexually abused by priests had come forward, and more than 50 lawsuits had been filed. Accusers later filed lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Winnigpeg, Canada, for sending Sigler to New Mexico.

1995 - The archdiocese settled 10 lawsuits with various clergy members. Nearly 30 other lawsuits still are pending.

1996 - The archdiocese and two other New Mexico orders settled the claims of six men and women who say they were sexually abused by priests in the late 1950s to early 1970s. Terms of the settlements were confidential. Priests involved in the claims included Earl Bierman, a former priest who went to Santa Fe from the Archdiocese of Covington, Ky.; former priests Marvin Archuleta, Louis Martinez and Frank Sierra from the Holy Cross Parish in Santa Cruz; and Jason Sigler of the Servants of the Paraclete.

Also in 1996, former Santa Fe Archbishop Robert Sanchez admitted that he frequently violated his vow of celibacy and kept quiet about accusations that priests sexually abused children because he didn't know it was a crime. Sanchez resigned in 1993. By the end of 1996, the diocese had resolved 157 cases. About 12 cases were still pending. The amount of the settlements was not disclosed, but diocese officials said it was substantially less than the $ 50 million they thought might be needed.


Diocese of Camden:

1994 - In early 1994, it was reported that the Diocese of Camden, N.J., had paid $ 3.2 million to 19 men and women since 1990 to settle complaints of sexual abuse against nine priests. The settlements included confidentiality agreements, barring any further details from being disclosed. But later that year, Camden Bishop James McHugh said the diocese would go to trial rather than make financial settlements in several pending cases involving alleged sexual abuse by priests.

1995 - A judge threw out racketeering charges in a class-action lawsuit accusing the diocese of covering up years of sexual abuse by priests.


Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown:

1994 - A jury ordered a priest and the diocese to pay $ 1.57 million to former altar boy , who was molested repeatedly starting in 1978 by local parish priest Rev. Francis Luddy. The verdict was overturned in 1996 but is still on appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Luddy, who was ordained in 1967, admitted he started molesting boys in his first two years as a priest.


Diocese of Dallas:

1997 - A jury awarded $ 120 million - the largest award in a priest molestation case - to 11 boys who were molested by Rev. Rudolph Kos between 1977-1992, saying the diocese committed gross negligence and concealed information in dealing with the suspended priest. In April, Kos was convicted of seven of eight counts of child sexual abuse involving four men who told police they were molestd 1,350 times. He was sentenced to life in prison.


Archdiocese of Milwaukee:

1993 - The archdiocese settled out-of-court with seven men and two women who say they were molested by Rev. William Effinger when they were minors. The allegations spanned the 20 years from Effinger's first parish assignment to his last. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Effinger also was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1988.

Compiled by Staff Researcher Michelle Quigley


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