A beating that took place 70 years ago, but the pain is still fresh. When “Don,” told the priest who ran St. Michael’s Home for Children on Staten Island that one of his employees had molested Don repeatedly over the previous two years. ‘When the employee got a hold of me, he beat me with a paddle that was three inches wide and about one inch thick,” said Don, his voice quivering as he recalled the beating that happened 70 years ago during a recent telephone interview.
Don and his Manhattan attorney Jordan Merson have sought damages from the Archdiocese of New York for several years, but they have been repeatedly rebuffed, and it’s unlikely that Don will receive the compensation — or the justice — he believes he deserves any time soon. Don’s case, according to Merson and sex-abuse victim advocates, illustrates both the shortcomings of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program unveiled by the Archdiocese of New York earlier this month and the need for a statute of limitations reform for child sexual abuse cases. Don was born in Brooklyn and was just 7 years old when was sent to St. Michael’s with his older brother.
Don says his first five years at St. Michael’s were mostly positive, but his last two years were horrific. Don was just 12 years old when he became a target for the orphanage employee. The abuse began when the St. Michael’s employee woke him up in his dormitory room. “He began fondling me, and then he had his way with me,” Don said. “I remember being very frightened,” Don says he was also once molested at St. Michael’s by a seminarian assigned to mentor him. Don finally told the priest who ran St. Michael’s about the lay employee’s sexual abuse, resulting in a beating, But there was a silver lining — the employee stopped abusing Don after that, he says.
Don reported the abuse to the Archdiocese a few years ago, but Merson said Archdiocese officials told him it was not responsible because of a religious order, the Sisters of Mercy, operated the orphanage during the seven years Don lived there in the 1940s. “Nobody is willing to take responsibility,” Merson said. “Nobody is willing to explain how this happened.” New York City property records, Merson said, say a group called the Presentation Sisters of Staten Island operated the facility. A certificate of occupancy lists the operator as the Sisters of the Presentation. The records suggest the Sisters of Mercy operated the orphanage during the 1940s. New York’s statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases bars victims from pursuing litigation after their 23rd birthdays, and Merson says that means he can’t subpoena documents from the Archdiocese or the Sisters of Mercy to identify who operated the home.
Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling told the Daily News that New York church officials had forwarded the case to the Sisters of Mercy. Merson said Don’s case is the Child Victims Act, a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases and make it easier for victims to pursue justice. The bill faces stiff opposition from the Catholic Church.
Merson said Don’s case is the Child Victims Act, a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases and make it easier for victims to pursue justice. The bill faces stiff opposition from the Catholic Church. “We are at the mercy of two entities that refuse to give us any information,” Merson said. Merson said he recently contacted the Archdiocese to see if Don would qualify for damages under the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program recently unveiled by Timothy Cardinal Dolan. Church officials told Merson that Don was not eligible because he was sexually assaulted by a lay employee, not a priest or deacon. “The IRCP has been established only to cover cases of abuse by clergy (priests or deacons) of the Archdiocese of New York,” Zwilling said. “It does not cover members of religious communities, priests from other dioceses, or lay people.” Merson said he has concluded the IRCP is nothing more than a public relations move intended to persuade state lawmakers that the Child Victims Act is unnecessary because the Church is taking care of sex abuse victims. “This program is nothing more than window dressing — albeit with stained-glass windows,” Merson said.
Please, contact The Merson Law firm for a free and confidential consultation. We will treat you with dignity, respect and discuss the best legal options for you and your family.
For the original story, click here.