Doctor: Brothers Scarred by Sex Abuse
Monsignor's Actions Led to Emotional Trouble, Psychiatrist Testifies
By William H. Sokolic
Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, NJ)
April 10, 2002
Two brothers who say their family priest molested them as teenagers were unaware for years that the assaults had triggered a string of emotional problems, a psychiatrist testified Tuesday.
Robert Young, 37, and Philip Young, 36, were emotionally scarred by the alleged sexual abuse by Msgr. Philip Rigney, a longtime family friend, between 1978 and 1982. But they had waited more than a decade to take legal action because they did not realize its connection to their alcohol problems, relationship difficulties and scrapes with the law, according to Dr. James Hoyme, an expert witness.
'There was a conscious decision to avoid thinking about it,because it made them feel worse than they already did,' said Hoyme, associate medical director of Magellan Behavioral Health in Philadelphia.
Hoyme spent the day testifying during the second week of a statute of limitations hearing in Atlantic County Superior Court to determinewhether to allow a lawsuit filed by the brothers to move forward.
The class-action lawsuit will determine whether the Youngs have a legitimate excuse for not filing a claim within two yearsof turning 18.
The case was originally filed in 1994 by 16 alleged victims and accused 14 priests and said the diocese conspired to cover up for them.
Judge John G. Himmelberger Jr. will decide whether there were extenuating circumstances for the late filing. If he rules against the Youngs, the suit would go forward without them.
The Young brothers resisted going to authorities for fear of harming both the church and their family, a point supported when their mother, Joan Dougherty, testified Monday.
'Priests spoke with the authority of God,' Hoyme said.
All that changed in 1994 with a newspaper article about a class-action suit brought against the Diocese of Camden by alleged victims of clergy sex abuse, Hoyme said. When Philip Young found out about the lawsuit, 'it blew his mind wide open' to learn that church officials had apparently covered up similar cases, he said.
Hoyme, who interviewed the Young brothers in 2000, said they grew up with a strong sense of the importance of the Catholic Church, and before the assaults, they were well-adjusted children.
Robert appeared calm during Hoyme's testimony, but Philip bounced with nervous energy over hearing a replay of the alleged abuses.
The suit alleges Philip was first attacked at age 12, sometimes in the rectory of either St. Joseph's Pro Cathedral in Camden or St. Francis de Sales Church in Barrington, and sometimes at Msgr.Rigney's house on Long Beach Island.
At the shore house, for example, the clergyman would wait until the family went to sleep, and would slip into Philip's bed and 'use him as a sex object in a variety of ways,' Hoyme said. 'Philip would pretend to be asleep as if not being there.'
After the abuse began, 'Philip's academics went into the toilet,' Hoyme said. He was tense, grim, wary, unhappy, he said. He drank to excess, fought with family and friends, was charged with driving under the influence, and also with carrying a concealed weapon.He suffered from profound low self-esteem, guilt and self-blame. At one point, he tried to stab himself.
'Philip didn't want to think or talk about the situation, and alcohol helped him do that,' Hoyme said.
Robert was moody and had difficulty establishing relationships with women, suffering from impotence on occasion. He also had trouble getting along with people.
Defense lawyers countered that records show the Youngs spoke to counselors during multiple treatment sessions and that Philip spoke on several occasions with a close friend. David Lentz, who represents the estate of the late Bishop George Guilfoyle, said treatment between 1986 and 1989 meant the brothers understood there were consequences to the abuse long before 1994.
Philip Young's final testimony is expected today. Rigney, 85, who lives in Palm Beach, Fla., is slated to testify via videoconference Monday.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.