Doctor Tells of Abuse by Priests
Mark K. Depman, 48, Is Suing the Camden Diocese. He Said He Was Molested for Three Years.
By Nancy Phillips
May 14, 2002
A physician testified yesterday that he was sexually abused by two South Jersey priests starting at age 13 and that a third priest showed him pornographic magazines.
Mark K. Depman said the abuse began in the sacristy of St. Peter Roman Catholic Church in Merchantville, where he served as an altar boy and played the organ at Mass.
Depman, 47, of Guilford, Conn., said he was alone with the Rev. John P. Kelly one day in 1967 when the priest hugged him and kissed him on the mouth. That, he said, was the beginning of three years of abuse that included fondling, masturbation, oral sex and attempted sodomy.
Now an emergency-room physician who has a 13-year-old son, Depman said it was as if the priests had opened up a computer and damaged its core.
"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.
Father Kelly is deceased. A lawyer for his estate has denied the abuse.
Depman, along with his younger brother, is among 18 plaintiffs who have sued the Diocese of Camden, alleging childhood sexual abuse by priests and contending that for years, the diocese tolerated such conduct and conspired to hide it. Lawyers for the diocese have denied those claims.
Testifying in a calm, steady voice, Depman said Father Kelly befriended his family and, along with other priests, was a frequent visitor at their home in Merchantville. Before long, he said, the priest was taking him to dinner and inviting him to spend the night at the rectory.
One night, after dinner at Chubby's restaurant in Cherry Hill, he said the priest drank Scotch and shared some with him. In the car as they were driving home, Depman testified, Father Kelly unzipped his pants, pulled the boy's head into his lap, and made him give him oral sex as they rode through Depman's neighborhood.
When they got to the house, he testified, he went upstairs and did his homework while Father Kelly joined his parents for drinks downstairs.
At another time, Depman said, the Rev. Charles P. McColgan, a priest acquainted with Father Kelly, took Depman and a friend to a bathhouse, where they sat naked in a steam room. There, he said, the priest fondled his genitals. Father McColgan, too, is deceased.
Depman testified that a third priest, the Rev. Norman T. Connelly, showed him pornography when he was with Father Kelly at the rectory. Father Connelly has denied that.
Depman described how a life that began with a childhood of "unfettered enjoyment of small-town life" descended to a place where, as a teenager at Camden Catholic High School, he once drank bleach and, on another occasion, cut his arm "just to feel what the pain was like."
He said he did not understand at the time that what the priest did to him was wrong or had harmed him.
It was not until many years later, Depman testified, that he came to grips with what had happened to him and connected it to the depression he sometimes suffered and to the feelings of numbness that sometimes came over him.
"I believe that Father Kelly damaged my ability to love," he said. "Father Kelly damaged my ability to connect in a true, earnest way with anybody. It affected my marriage... . I think it affected my ability to engage the world in general and even to engage in a religious faith."
Depman and his brother, John, sued in 1994 over abuse that they say took place between 1967 and 1972. Because they sued after the statute of limitations for such claims had expired, their attorneys have asked Judge John G. Himmelberger Jr. of Atlantic County Superior Court to make an exception to the law and allow the case to proceed. Attorneys for the diocese say the suit should be dismissed because it was filed too late.
Those attorneys began their cross-examination of Depman late yesterday with questions about his memory for details of events that occurred more than 30 years ago. That cross-examination is to resume this morning.
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