Priest Sex Abuse Lawsuit Puts Albany Diocese Policies in Spotlight

Priest Sex Abuse Lawsuit Puts Albany Diocese Policies in SpotlightThe Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, is facing scrutiny, following the filing a Vermont civil lawsuit against one of it’s former priests by an alleged victim of sexual abuse.

The attorney representing a sexual abuse survivor who was victimized by a New York priest serving a 20-year prison sentence said the civil case could reveal the way in which the diocese handled sexual abuse allegations, said The Associated Press (AP). The case against the Albany diocese and former priest Gary Mercure, 68, was filed in federal court in Vermont because Vermont’s statue of limitations is greater than that in New York, wrote the AP.

The victim, who is now 36 years old, testified during Mercure’s criminal trial in Massachusetts that, during the 1980s, the priest raped him in both New York and Massachusetts, said the AP. The current complaint indicates that abuse also occurred in Vermont.

Not unsurprisingly, diocese spokesman Ken Goldfarb told the Times Union of Albany the claims have no basis, the AP wrote.

We recently wrote that two brothers were awarded $700,000 in civil penalties by a Wisconsin jury that determined the Diocese of Green Bay conspired to cover up the child sexual abuse allegations against one of its priests. The former Father John Feeney spent eight years in prison after being convicted of committing sexual abuse against children. The two brothers, however, according to a Gannett report, waited four years for their lawsuit to reach the trial phase against the Diocese of Green Bay for failing to respond to accusations that Feeney was committing sexual abuse against the children in the congregations he served.

It has been more than a decade since a rash of allegations against Catholic priests surfaced. The church has spent millions of dollars, if not more, to defend itself against charges it knew of allegations of sexual abuse being committed by its clergy. Many former priests have been sentenced to prison terms after being convicted of their crimes. And more than 10 years later, priests and church officials continue to defend themselves against allegations of sexual abuse or conspiring to ignore these accusations.

Hundreds, and potentially thousands of children were sexually abused by their priests or other church officials and were often intimidated into not telling their parents or civil authorities of crimes committed against them. In many cases, victims of sexual abuse are hesitant to come forward with their allegations, even years after they were abused.

The Catholic Church is not the only institution to face similar scandals. We’ve long been writing about the issue of sex abuse cases in close-knit ultra-orthodox Jewish communities nationwide, recently writing that the Brooklyn DA was facing heat over his handling of sex abuse cases and describing a number of cases of apparent sex crime cover-ups. As we’ve said, convincing child sex abuse victims to speak is difficult in the ultra-orthodox community because rabbis enforce a rule against reporting fellow Jews to secular authorities. Defying the rabbis can result in families becoming outcasts, ruining prospects for marriage or running businesses.

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