Slew of new lawsuits name 21 previously unidentified alleged abusers in Rochester diocese
By Sean Lahman
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
August 3, 2020
More than 70 survivors filed civil suits last week accusing former priests, nuns and lay teachers who served within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester of sexually abusing them as children.
Among the new cases are 21 alleged abusers who had not previously been accused publicly.
A deadline to lodge the claims by Aug. 13 — a date that could yet be extended if legislation is signed, has accelerated the pace of filings.
At least 230 complaints have been brought against the diocese and its member parishes since last August under the state’s Child Victims Act. Adopted in early 2019, the CVA carved out a one-year window during which suits can be brought by people who allege they were sexually abused when they were young.
One of the new lawsuits alleges abuse that occurred in 1939, but most of the new cases describe incidents of sexual misconduct from the 1970s and 1980s. Roughly half of the new lawsuits involve victims who were 10 years old or younger when their abuse allegedly started.
To date, roughly 80% of the 260 CVA cases filled in Monroe County name the diocese and its parishes as defendants.
"We are honored to stand with these survivors in their pursuit of truth and accountability," said attorney Jeff Anderson, whose firm filed 58 of the suits last week. "The number of complaints being filed demonstrates the magnitude of peril that has existed in the diocese for decades and that will no longer continue due to these courageous survivors.”
Many of the defendants named in lawsuits last week are already the subject of complaints filed under the CVA. A handful of others had been publicly accused of abuse but had not previously been sued until now.
Among them is Sister Janice Nadeau, who served as principal at St. Margaret Mary School in Irondequoit from 1976 to 1985. A Webster woman received a financial settlement in 2019 after she alleged that Nadeau violently, sexually assaulted her when she was 12 years old. The payout was the first in the diocese known to involve an allegation of sexual abuse against a nun.
|Sister Janice Nadeau as depicted in the 1974 McQuaid Jesuit High School yearbook. McQuaid Jesuit High School
A new suit by a male student accuses Nadeau of sexually assaulting him while he was a student at the school.
Several other alleged abusers had not previously been sued under the CVA but had been acknowledged by the diocese as having been the subject of credible accusations of sexually abusing minors. They include priests William D. Lum, Paul R. Schnacky, and Robert J. Winterkorn.
The 21 alleged abusers named publicly for the first time include:
• Rev. James Burke, accused of abusing a victim while he served at Church of the Holy Ghost in Gates beginning in 1977 when the victim was 16 years old.
• Rev. Joseph D’Aurizio, accused of abusing a victim while he served at St. John the Evangelist Church in Greece between 1982 and 1984, beginning when the victim was 5 years old.
• Rev. Emmett Davis, accused of abusing a victim while he served at St. Margaret Mary church in Irondequoit between 1939 and 1940, beginning when the victim was 8 years old.
• Msgr. George Eckl, accused of abusing a victim while he served at St. Andrew's church in Rochester, beginning in 1951 when the victim was 12 years old.
• Karl F. Faber, a lay teacher, accused of abusing a victim while teaching at St. Charles Borromeo church in Greece between 1965 and 1969, beginning when the victim was 8 years old.
• Rev. Richard Hart, accused of abusing a victim while he served at the Guardian Angels school in Henrietta, beginning in 1977 when the victim was 12 years old.
• Rev. David Heinsler, accused of abusing a victim while he served at St. Bridget's church in Rochester between 1967 and 1968, beginning when the victim was 8 years old.
• Rev. Thomas Honold, accused of abusing a victim while he served at St. Bridget's church in Rochester between 1969 and 1971, beginning when the victim was 12 years old.
• George Joseph, a lay teacher and coach, accused of abusing a victim while teaching at Bishop Kearney High School in Irondequoit between 1963 and 1964, beginning when the victim was 14 years old.
• Brother Lawrence Killelea, is accused of abusing a victim while serving at Bishop Kearney High School in Irondequoit between 1974 and 1976, beginning when the victim was 14 years old.
• Rev. Mark A. Miller is accused of abusing a victim while he served at St. Helen's church in Gates, beginning in 1976 when the victim was 11 years old.
• Rev. Bernard C. Newcomb is accused of abusing a victim while he served at St. Cecilia's Church in Irondequoit beginning in 1968 when the victim was 8 years old.
• Francis Pilecki, lay teacher is accused of abusing two victims while teaching at the Aquinas Institute of Rochester, between 1963 and 1964. The victims were 15 & 16 years old.
• Rev. Wilfred S. Riley is accused of abusing a victim while teaching at Aquinas Institute of Rochester beginning in 1956 when the victim was 15 years old.
• Theodore Russell, a lay teacher, is accused of abusing a victim while he served at St. Michael's church in Newark (Wayne County) between 1991 and 1992, beginning when the victim was 13 years old.
• Rev. James Slattery is accused of abusing a victim while he served at Our Lady Queen of Peace church in Brighton, between 1966 and 1967, beginning when the victim was 7 years old.
• Walter Szymanski, a lay employee of the diocese, is accused of abusing a victim when he worked at the Catholic Charities and Catholic Family Center between 1969 and 1970, beginning when the victim was 15 years old.
• Rev. George C. Vogt, is accused of abusing a victim while he served at Church of the Good Shepherd in Henrietta, beginning in 1975 when the victim was 8 years old.
• Deacon Stephen Ward is accused of abusing multiple victims while he served at St. Thomas the Apostle in Irondequoit between 1975 and 1978. The abuse allegedly began when one of the victims was 5 years old.
• Rev. Timothy Weider is accused of abusing a victim while he served at St. Vincent De Paul's Catholic Church in Corning (Chemung County) between 1967 and 1968, beginning when the victim was 11 years old.
• Rev. James Wolfe is accused of abusing a victim while he served at Our Lady of Lourdes church in Brighton, beginning in 1963 when the victim was 13 years old.
Seven of the new lawsuits name the Rev. Francis Vogt, whose brother George Vogt was also named in a new filing, as a perpetrator of sexual abuse of children, bringing the total number of claims against him to 42, so far.
Vogt, who died in 2006, served at parishes in Irondequoit, Rochester, Elmira and Palmyra between 1938 and 1983. He was one of the first Catholic priests in the Rochester diocese to be publicly accused of being a serial pedophile.
|The Rev. Francis Vogt in 1964 at St. Bridget Church's St. Martin de Porres Center. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle file photo
Most of the allegations of sexual abuse that have been made against him so far date to his time at St. Bridget’s, one of the city’s oldest parishes, centered near St. Paul Street in northeast Rochester.
Vogt followed his older brothers George and Joseph into the priesthood. All three have now been the subject of accusations of sexually abusing minors while serving in the Diocese of Rochester.
Three new suits name the Rev. Robert O'Neill, bringing the total number of claims filed against him to 20. O'Neill served at six parishes in Monroe County between 1962 and 2001.
He was believed to be one of the worst serial abusers ever uncovered in the Rochester diocese — and numerous accusations arose that diocesan officials knew all about it.
Letters were written, a lawsuit was filed, two different bishops reportedly were informed of O’Neill's misconduct, yet he was allowed to continue the ministry until his retirement. He died in 2005.
Also the subject of multiple new complaints last week were the Rev. Eugene G. Emo, now named in 12 separate lawsuits, the Rev. Joseph G. Larrabee, named in 14 total suits, and the Rev. Paul I. Cloonan, named in nine cases.
|Rev. Eugene Emo. (File photos)
In February 1996, Emo was arrested by New York State Police and charged with misdemeanor sexual abuse for having sexual contact with a 33-year-old man described as mentally disabled and legally incapable of giving informed consent to such contact.
The diocese placed Emo on leave after his arrest and later removed him from the priesthood. In the days after his arrest, State Police said they had received numerous additional complaints about Emo, some from former altar boys who said he would "wrestle violently" with them.
Emo pleaded guilty to a single count of sexual abuse and was given just six months in jail. Emo, now 85, has lived for years in Florida. A requirement of his criminal sentencing that he register as a Level 1 sex offender has expired.
Larrabee, who became a priest in the Rochester diocese in 1980, was assigned to churches in Monroe and Livingston counties. He reportedly was serving at St. Louis Church in Pittsford in some capacity when he took a leave of absence in 1993.
Larrabee later resigned the priesthood after one or more people came forward to accuse him of child sexual abuse, according to news reports. Nothing was made known publicly about these accusations, but Larrabee was included on the Rochester diocese’s list of clergy who had been credibly accused of asexually abusing minors since 2002.
He has lived outside the Rochester diocese since the mid-2000’s, according to available public records.
Similarly, Cloonan’s name appeared on the diocese's list of priests credibly accused of abuse, but no details of his misconduct had been made public before He was voluntarily laicized and died in 2015.
Rush to file
The flurry of new filings comes as the window for filing claims under the CVA is set to end on Aug. 13.
Efforts to extend the deadline have only created confusion. Political leaders in Albany have twice taken steps to keep that window open longer — but lawyers for child sexual abuse victims are distrustful of both efforts.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order in early May using his authority under the coronavirus disaster emergency to extend the CVA by five months, to Jan. 13. The state Legislature passed a bill to extend the deadline to August 2021.
That bill will not take effect until Cuomo signs it, and the governor has not said publicly whether he intends to sign it. Plaintiffs' lawyers fear the governor's extension-by-executive order will not pass constitutional muster, giving them no choice but to file every legal action they can by Aug. 13.
There is certainty for survivors intending to sue the Diocese of Rochester. Because the diocese is immersed in bankruptcy proceedings, claims against that institution must be filed by the original deadline.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul Warren issued an order last month confirming that the Aug. 13, 2020, deadline previously set for filing claims in the Diocese’s chapter 11 case will not be extended. He denied a request to extend the deadline filed by the official committee representing abuse claimants and other unsecured creditors.
"The Diocese’s Chapter 11 filing and attempt to evade responsibility for the horrendous crimes committed against children in its institutions will not deter survivors from seeking truth and accountability," said attorney Steve Boyd, who represents dozens of clients suing the diocese. "These plaintiffs are joining the hundreds of survivors across New York in ensuring that children are better protected moving forward."
Includes reporting by staff writer Steve Orr
Sean Lahman is a watchdog reporter for the Democrat & Chronicle, part of the USA Today Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @seanlahman.