Two men come forward as litigants in priest-sex-abuse suits


Two men come forward as litigants in priest-sex-abuse suits

By Joseph A. Slobodzian

Inquirer Staff Writer

Posted: Wed, Sep. 19, 2012, 3:01 AM

Breaking with anonymity – but not loosening the tenacious hold of childhood sexual abuse – two men announced Tuesday that they had sued the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, church officials, and three priests.

The emotional statements by Andrew Druding and Michael W. McDonnell highlighted a Center City news conference where their lawyers also announced six other lawsuits on behalf of seven victims purportedly abused as children by archdiocesan priests.

“What you did didn’t define me,” said Druding. “I may be damaged goods, but I’m not going to allow you to beat me.”

Druding, 51, of Holmesburg, struggled to control his voice as he said he had been sexually abused in the early 1970s by the Rev. Francis S. Feret, then choir director at St. Timothy parish in Mayfair.

“You took advantage of a 9-year-old boy who loved to sing and who was afraid to tell because you were a priest, God’s messenger on Earth and the most holy person in my life,” Druding said as his wife, Denise, wept in the front row of seats.

Feret, 75, was an archdiocesan priest from 1963 until March 2011, when he was suspended from active ministry while at St. Adalbert parish in Port Richmond. In May, he was found “unsuitable for ministry.”

McDonnell, 44, of Bristol, described growing up as the youngest of eight children, all of whom attended St. Titus parish and school near Norristown.

McDonnell said that in the late 1970s and early ’80s when he was an altar boy, he was sexually abused by two priests – the Rev. John P. Schmeer and the now-defrocked Francis X. Trauger.

“We were taught that the hands raised over us in blessing were those that represented the hands of Christ here on Earth,” McDonnell said. “Never did I imagine then, and struggle to believe it today, that those hands could abuse a child of God.”

McDonnell, who described years of mental-health and addiction problems, spent a year in prison after pleading guilty in 2010 to defrauding the archdiocese by submitting more than $100,000 in bills for psychotherapy sessions that never occurred. He also admitted stealing $9,000 in donations and payments to the Bucks County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, where he worked.

Trauger, 67, was laicized in 2005 after complaints of sexually abusing children and spent almost two years at St. John Vianney, the archdiocesan hospital for priests with sex, alcohol, or drug problems. Schmeer, 77, was removed from public ministry in 2004 and then agreed to a supervised life of “prayer and penance” at Villa St. Joseph, a retirement home for priests.

The eight lawsuits join eight others involving different victims filed earlier in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court by Marci Hamilton, a legal advocate and expert on child sexual abuse; Malvern lawyer Daniel F. Monahan; and Jeffrey R. Anderson, a veteran litigator involving church sex-abuse cases, based in St. Paul, Minn.

Although the criminal statute of limitations has passed for all nine victims, Hamilton said there was a basis for a civil conspiracy lawsuit because “the church’s cover-up continued right up to the start” of this year’s trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn.

Lynn, 61, the first church official charged for his supervision of a priest accused of sexually abusing children, was convicted of child endangerment and is serving three to six years in prison.

“The abuse must stop,” Hamilton said. “The cover-up, the incompetent handling of reports of abuse, must stop.”

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a statement said that church officials had not seen the new lawsuits and could not comment.

“We believe lawsuits are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse. We will work to assure all victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate assistance,” the statement read.

Dressed in suits, Druding and McDonnell also wore a veneer of poise that proved very thin.

After the news conference ended, Druding sat in a chair, shoulders rising and falling with sighs, as he tried to control himself, and as his wife held an arm around him and dabbed his tears.

McDonnell’s voice cracked as he referred to the “love and light of my life” – wife Debra Bashwinger and their 6-year-old son, Sean, in the audience. Bashwinger was weeping; Sean, unimpressed with the television cameras and photographers clicking away, played on the floor with a Thomas the Tank Engine locomotive.

“No one understands what the families of victims go through,” said Bashwinger, who added that without the support of her husband’s family, she would have become homeless while McDonnell was in prison.

“I think it’s important to put a face to the cost,” McDonnell said, referring to his reason for going public. “It’s important to show a doubting public that these victims do exist. We do live our lives, although we struggle on a daily basis. We are real people.”

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About victimsofrapebythercc

The Catechism offers a clear moral teaching: "Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them." (no. 2356) Note that rape is "an intrinsically evil act," meaning that it is evil at its very root, nothing justifies it, and it is objectively a mortal sin. An evil act was done against me, a crime, by a priest at St Thomas More Parish in Durham, NH. An evil and a crime I will no longer keep silent about. Those who perpetrate crimes against children, especially those of the Roman Catholic Church, should all be punished for their crimes against children. Anything less would be criminal.

Posted on September 19, 2012, in Child Sex Abuse, Clergy Abuse, Clergy Sex Abuse, Religion, Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church Sex Abuse and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Source: United Advocacy Group, Inc.

    When Clergy Are Asked To Leave Quietly, There Is No Justice

    (CHICAGO) – Br. John Woulfe, an ex-Marianist brother, has been accused by numerous ex-students at Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis, MO of sexually molesting them. Of course, he wasn’t the only member of this religious community accused of such acts. There were many more. Many, many more.
    In 2002, Michael Powel filed a lawsuit against Chaminade College Preparatory School for a lifetime of suffering and damages (2002. Powel v Chaminade College Preparatory, Inc, Marianist Province of the United States, Archbishop Justin Rigali, William Christensen [aka Fr. William Christensen, S.M.] and John Woulfe [aka Br. John Woulfe, S.M.]). Powel would ultimately win the lawsuit for millions of dollars several years later.
    Br. John Woulfe, after being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with students in the 1970s left the Society of Mary (aka “Marianists”). Instead of notifying the local police department for prosecution Fr. Robert Osbourne, the school principal, allowed Woulfe to leave ‘quietly’. Unfortunately, this did not stop Woulfe’s desire to prey on the weak and vulnerable.
    Eventually Woulfe would end up in the small town of Onarga, Illinois. In this area, Woulfe would once again continue his predatory sexual behavior on children until he was caught. “John Woulfe was a monster,” recalls Illinois-based author John Bernadyn in his newly released memoir Betrayed By The State: A Ward of the State Speaks Out in which he discusses the experiences he faced with this ex-clergyman. “He was demeaning, pushy, and manipulative.”
    After suspicion took hold of this town, Woulfe moved to the small town of Watseka, Illinois. He landed a position as a guidance counselor in the Kankakee School District – an occupation he knew all too well while serving at Chaminade. In 2002, Woulfe was arrested for predatory sexual behavior with a student. Defiantly, he refused to appear at court hearings.
    Woulfe would eventually find himself in a nursing home after suffering a stroke and ultimately dying in 2005 from the after-effects. “The real tragedy in this case is that all the people he victimized would never get to tell him directly how they felt or if they ever forgave him. I, too, felt robbed of this chance to say I forgave him but would never forget,” said Bernadyn.
    All allegations of sexual abuse are now required to be reported to local justice authorities. “This is a little too late,” whispers Bernadyn.

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