Holy Cross Principal Files Sex-Abuse Suit

By Jason Laughlin
Courier-Post [Cherry Hill NJ]
December 12, 2002

The principal of a Catholic high school here has filed suit againsta religious order in New York alleging he and other teenagers weremolested while they attended a junior seminary.

The suit was filed in September by Joseph Lemme, principal ofHoly Cross High School, and three other men. In the suit, the fourclaim they suffered years of assault and abuse at the now-defunctSalesian Junior Seminary in Goshen, N.Y. The suit also allegesthe order failed to protect them.

Lemme declined to be interviewed for this story, but his attorney,Marcia Goffin, said he pursued the case against the order -- the SalesiansSociety of Don Bosco -- to prevent other children from being victims.

'It was important work to him,' Goffin said.

Newark attorney Rick Beran, who represents the order, wouldnot comment on the lawsuit. He did say a motion had been filed to dismissthe suit on the contention that the statute of limitations expiredlong ago.

Suits brought by people still active in the church are oftenmotivated by a desire to cause change, said South Jersey attorneyStephen Rubino, who has brought several abuse claims against theCatholic Church.

'I think the motivation is they want the hierarchy to be forthrightand truthful,' Rubino said.

The lawsuit, filed in Westchester County, N.Y., describespriests and a Salesian brother, George Puello, molesting sleepingboys, among other acts of abuse.

Puello was a teacher at the school only during Lemme's freshmanyear, but visited Lemme and took him to dinner, movies and hotelrooms over the next year and a half, the suit says.

A lawyer for Puello, who has since left the church, did not returncalls Wednesday.

At one point Lemme went to confide in another priest. That priesttold him to pray, then patted the young Lemme on the bottom as he prayed,the suit claims.

The abuse took place between 1968 and 1973 when the plaintiffswere in their early teens, the suit claims.

The Salesians who ran the seminary, a residential high schoolwhere teenagers took the first steps toward priesthood, belongedto an order known as the Society of Don Bosco. The organization,approved by the Holy See in 1869, has branches in 125 nations andfocuses on helping youths, particularly those suffering frompoverty.

Shortly after reporting the abuse, the suit claims, Lemme wastossed out of the school. The Rev. Emil Allue, the school's director,told Lemme he wasn't priest material, the suit says.

'If he was not a candidate for the priesthood it had nothing todo with any report of abuse because the bishop never received a reportof abuse,' said Anne Kenney, assistant to Allue, now an auxiliarybishop in the Boston area.

After Lemme was tossed out, Puello asked him if he wanted to movein with him, the suit says. Lemme declined, according to the suit.

Lemme, 46, a husband and father of four, decided with his threeformer classmates to file suit after seeing others in New York suethe same priests, the suit says.

Lemme's attorney said he struggled through a crisis of faithas a result of his abuse but still is an active Catholic.

Accused in the suit of abuse, in addition to Puello, are the Rev.Frank Nugent and the Rev. Richard Matikonas.

The Rev. Patrick Angelucci and the Rev. James Heuser are accusedof failing to protect the plaintiffs.

The defendants now work in New Rochelle, N.Y.


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