Another Altar Boy Testifies in Lawsuit

By John Curran
Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey)
May 14, 2002

A second round of hearings on a class-action suit against the Diocese of Camden opened yesterday in Atlantic City with another former altar boy describing how a parish priest sexually abused him decades ago.

Mark Depman, 47, a physician from Guilford, Conn., who grew up in New Jersey, said the Rev. John P. Kelly molested him in the late 1960s at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Merchantville and said another priest once fondled him in a bathhouse.

He compared the assaults to someone opening the back of a computer and damaging its hard drive.

"When they had had their pleasure, they shut the door and I was left with a damaged, faulty hard drive for the rest of my life," Depman testified. "Those men damaged my brain."

Depman and his brother, John F. Depman, 45, are among 16 plaintiffs suing the diocese over sexual abuse they say they suffered at the hands of priests in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The lawsuit, filed in 1994, alleges that diocesan priests preyed on children and that their superiors ignored or covered up the abuse.

The hearing that began yesterday will focus on whether the two have a legally valid excuse for not filing their claims sooner. Under New Jersey law, a minor who is sexually abused has until his or her 20th birthday to seek redress in court.

In Depman's case, that would have been 1974.

Earlier this month, after a similar hearing, Superior Court Judge John G. Himmelberger Jr. dismissed two Delaware brothers as plaintiffs in the suit, saying they failed to prove "religious duress" prevented them from coming forward sooner.

Yesterday, Depman, a Harvard-educated emergency room physician, said he had at least a dozen sexual contacts with Kelly beginning at age 12 or 13 but that he didn't understand it was wrong until 1993.

Kelly was physically affectionate, kissing and hugging Depman and other altar boys, and he often massaged Depman's back, even in front of Depman's parents, Depman said. "These things were inappropriate, but what they led to was even worse," he said. "I think I was being desensitized to the things he was going to do next."

Later, Depman said, Kelly engaged in fondling, masturbation and oral-genital contact with him.

"This is our special thing, Mark," Kelly would tell him, Depman said.

Kelly introduced Depman to a Rev. Charles McColgan, who once took him and a friend to a bathhouse, where McColgan fondled him, Depman said.

He testified that another St. Peter's priest - the Rev. Norman T. Connelly - routinely showed pornographic materials to him and other boys in the parish, but that Connelly never touched him.

Brian Tierney, a public relations person working on behalf of the Diocese of Camden's law firm, said it was difficult to believe Depman - as a medical professional - didn't realize until he was in his 30s that he had been a victim


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