MT Man Says Priest Molested Him, Sues Phila. Archdiocese

Lancaster New Era [Lancaster, PA]
May 19, 2004

A Manheim Township man has sued the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia and a former priest whom he alleges molested him at a church summer camp in the 1950s and 1960s.

Walter Daly and his wife, Jean, are seeking in excess of $500,000 from the archdiocese, St. Monica's Church and the Rev. John Cannon, the Philadelphia Daily News reported today.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday by attorney Stewart J. Eisenberg Thursday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

Eisenberg told the Daily News that Cannon allegedly began molesting Daly when the boy was in sixth grade and the abuse continued until Daly was in 10th grade. He alleges the priest would fondle Daly, who was not the only victim.

"None of them ever told their parents," Eisenberg said. Daly was taught it was "mortally sinful and wrong to make any kind of accusation against a priest ... and that priests of the Roman Catholic Church could not and would not engage in conduct considered evil or wrong."

The campers at the church's Berks County summer camp, where the incidents are alleged to have occurred, called Cannon "Poison Ivy" for the way he crept through the camp at night searching for his victims, the attorney said.

Cathy Rossi, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Cannon, who is now in his early 80s, is no longer in active ministry and noted the lawsuit involved "allegations that occurred decades ago."

The Daily News reported that Cannon was removed from the camp in 1964, the same year the first misconduct charge was made against him. He taught at a Catholic high school until 1985, when he was made chaplain of a home for the aged.

This past December, as the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church grew, Cardinal Justin Rigali stripped Cannon of his duties and sent his file to the Vatican for further review.

Eisenberg said Daly tried to put the alleged abuse behind him, but was unable to do so. The abuse "caused problems in his marriage, in his children, in his relationships with co-workers and other family members."

"He just wanted to forget about it, but there came a time when he couldn't do that anymore," Eisenberg told the Daily News.

The church claims that old cases like Daly's can't be pursued because of the statute of limitations. Eisenberg counters that the statue of limitations should not apply in Daly's case because the church was guilty of fraudulently concealing a pattern of sex abuse by priests.

Attempts to reach Daly and his attorney were unsuccessful this morning.


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