14 Jan 2011

Clergy abuse survivor tells Delaware court that church officials blamed him for tempting pedophile priest

The News Journal - Delaware November 2, 2010

Priest 'knew' of DeLuca abuse

Victim testifies to receiving warning at school

By SEAN O'SULLIVAN • The News Journal

DOVER -- St. Elizabeth's Parish officials, including a priest who is now part of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, had clear suspicions about defrocked priest Francis DeLuca's abuse of young boys at the time it happened in the late 1960s, according to one abuse victim who testified Monday in the priest abuse civil lawsuit brought by John Vai.

The man, identified as "John Doe 18," said he was confronted by Monsignor Thomas Cini, who was then a parish priest at St. Elizabeth's, in 1968-69 and was warned to stay away from DeLuca.

Doe, who is now 59, told a jury that Cini told him that DeLuca was "in trouble" and that by hanging out with DeLuca, "I was tempting him."

Doe said Cini then told him he should have known better and if Doe had to speak to anyone about his "emotions," he should only speak to Cini.

Doe said Cini never specifically mentioned the inappropriate sexual relationship that had been going on between DeLuca and Doe, who was then a teenager, but he said it was implied from their conversation.

"He knew," Doe said.

In previous sworn depositions, and in Bankruptcy Court proceedings this summer, Cini denied knowledge of DeLuca's abuse of young boys. Cini declined to comment Monday, through a spokesman, but he is expected to testify later during the trial.

Doe's testimony came during the third day of the civil lawsuit brought by Vai against St. Elizabeth's and DeLuca under the Delaware Child Victims Act, which temporarily suspended the statute of limitations on cases of childhood sexual abuse to allow civil suits seeking damages to be filed.

Three other victims of priest abuse took the stand Monday. Two spoke about how they were abused by a predecessor of DeLuca's at St. Elizabeth's, the Rev. Alfred Lind, who left the priesthood in 1967 and died in 1996.

There was also another anonymous victim of DeLuca who testified.

John Doe 18, and the two victims of Lind -- Philip Saggione and Patrick Nagle, both retired Wilmington police officers -- testified that the priests lured them into sexual relationships by providing access to their flashy cars.

In his videotaped deposition, DeLuca admitted to knowing Lind and serving with him briefly in one parish.

However, when DeLuca was asked if he ever discussed abusing boys with Lind, DeLuca refused to answer, citing the sacred "seal" of a confessional.

Lind, when he arrived at St. Elizabeth's in 1965, had a white Corvette, said Saggione, who was in eighth grade at the time.

Nagle, who like Saggione has a lawsuit pending against the parish, said in a video deposition that Lind appeared to be a young, "hip" priest -- someone they could trust -- and he offered them a chance to ride in and drive his car.

Afterward, the two testified that Lind brought them up to his bedroom at the rectory, gave them pornographic magazines to look at and then playfully wrestled with them on the bed. However, it turned into molestation when Lind pinned each down in turn and reached down their pants, according to testimony.

Similarly, Doe testified that shortly after arriving at St. Elizabeth's in 1966, DeLuca got a new car -- a blue Camaro -- and he soon started offering rides to boys at St. Elizabeth High, usually to away games for the school's sports teams.

Doe said that when he turned 16, DeLuca even let him drive. He also said that DeLuca usually sat in the back and overloaded the car with boys so a boy ended up sitting on DeLuca's lap.

Doe said DeLuca would molest him in the car and often would furnish him with beer and cigarettes. "It was always dark," Doe said, and the molestation usually took place after they returned from a game.

He said it would usually start with DeLuca massaging his leg and progress from there, up to and including oral sex. "I don't know why I kept going back, but I did," Doe said in a wavering voice.

Doe said he is not using his name because he is still afraid of humiliation and retaliation. And though he spoke with an attorney before the Child Victims Act deadline passed, he said he chose not to file a lawsuit as he tries to put the issue behind him.

But he told attorney Raeann Warner, who led his questioning Monday, that he agreed to testify at Vai's trial because he knew parish officials were saying something different than he recalled and he wanted the record set straight.

Doe said DeLuca abused him from his sophomore year through his senior year at St. Elizabeth High School.

It was in his senior year, Doe testified, that he realized others at St. Elizabeth's were aware or strongly suspected DeLuca had improper relationships with young boys.

Doe said he was driving DeLuca's Camaro back to the church on a weekend, with some other boys and DeLuca, when he saw the parish pastor come out of a basement door, shouting at DeLuca.

The pastor was "yelling and waving his arms, saying, 'I told you ... you told me you wouldn't do this anymore. What are they doing in the car? What were you doing?' " Doe said, adding that a second parish priest was also there. During the argument, Doe said, he fled.

The next school day, Doe said, he was confronted by Cini -- his religion instructor -- in a hallway at the high school. "I was afraid I was in a lot of trouble. ... I thought I was getting kicked out of school," he said.

Just before the incident, Doe said, the school had adopted a new policy that forbade any student from going to away games in a private car -- they were all supposed to ride the school-chartered bus.

Cini "asked me if I had anything I wanted to talk about and said if I did, I should talk to him about it," Doe said. "Father Cini told me that Father DeLuca was in trouble and that by me riding with him, or being with him, I was tempting him. ... I was part of the problem DeLuca was having and I should know better than to be putting myself in that position with DeLuca."

Testimony is expected to resume Wednesday before the jury and Superior Court President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr.

This article was found at:



  1. Priest admits sex with minor says teen wanted it

    Mark Mueller / The Star-Ledger | August 19, 2015

    NEWARK, N.J. – In an extraordinary admission of wrongdoing, a priest sought by authorities in New Jersey has acknowledged engaging in a sexual encounter with a 15-year-old boy, but he deflected blame for the incident by saying the teen “wanted” it and had “evil in his mind.”

    In a telephone interview with NJ Advance Media, in email exchanges and in a lengthy post on Twitter, the Rev. Manuel Gallo Espinoza said it was a “mistake” to have sexual contact with the boy in the rectory of a Plainfield church in 2003. He said he fled to his native Ecuador after the victim told a nun and another priest that Gallo Espinoza raped him.

    “One thing that I am conscious (of) is he was at that time a teenager, and it is a big mistake for me. But I didn’t force him to do anything he didn’t want,” Gallo Espinoza wrote. “He was older (sic) enough to walk away, but I think that I was attracted to him, that is the only explanation that I can think right now.”

    Gallo Espinoza added: “He had something evil in his mind. He approached me many times.”

    The 51-year-old priest, who was not questioned by detectives in 2003 because he could not be located, is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Union County (N.J) Prosecutor’s Office.

    The agency reopened the long-dormant probe after inquiries by NJ Advance Media, which reported late last month that Gallo Espinoza returned to the United States in 2005 to work as a teacher. He said he went back to Ecuador when his visa expired last year and that he remains there now.

    Gallo Espinoza said he does not consider himself a “pedophile person” and that he learned a lesson from the encounter.

    “I made a mistake once and that’s (sic) was all,” he said.

    David Clohessy, director of the St. Louis based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on police and prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against the Newark archdiocesan officials who helped Gallo Espinoza evade the law

    “It’s heartbreaking to learn that, once again, New Jersey Catholic officials told a predator priest to flee the US to evade police,” said Clohessy. “And it’s equally heartbreaking to learn that the priest later returned to the US and got a job around kids and remains a teacher even now.”

    Asked by email if he realized he was committing a crime by having sex with a 15-year-old boy when he was 40, Gallo Espinoza responded, “I just came fr (sic) my country and really in Ecuador a person at 15 years old is not consider (sic) so innocent.”

    He added that he had not had sex with other minors.

    Gallo Espinoza’s accuser, Max Rojas Ramirez, said the priest raped him in a bedroom of the rectory at St. Mary’s Church in Plainfield shortly before Easter in 2003. Ramirez, now 28 and living in Elizabeth, was an altar boy and a member of the parish’s youth group at the time.

    He said Gallo Espinoza attacked him weeks after he told the priest in confession that he was confused about his sexuality. Ramirez flatly denies Gallo Espinoza’s contention that he sought anything more than counsel.

    “I saw him as a priest, and that’s it,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t even know who was in the confessional when I went in there.”

    He added that he was gratified Gallo Espinoza admitted the encounter, saying it shows he has been telling the truth.

    NJ Advance Media published Ramirez’ name at his request.

    In March, Ramirez filed suit against the Archdiocese of Newark, saying it was responsible for the priest’s behavior and should have established stronger protections. The incident took place just a year after the nation’s bishops — badly shaken by the church’s sex abuse crisis — established a landmark document known as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

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  2. Gallo Espinoza made reference to Ramirez’s lawsuit in his correspondence, saying the victim had revived the issue after 12 years to cash in.

    “The explanation that I find to begin again with this incident after many years is ‘EASY MONEY,'” Gallo Espinoza wrote.

    He repeatedly blamed his use of alcohol the night he took Ramirez to the rectory, saying he drank too much because he was depressed, lonely and homesick.

    In later emails, Gallo Espinoza sought to retract his admission, saying he was so drunk he didn’t remember the incident and simply accepted Ramirez’s claims.

    Gallo Espinoza, who had served at St. Mary’s for three years leading up to the sexual encounter, said he wanted to speak out to prove that he is a good person and that he is not a danger to others.

    “I want people (to) know that a mistake made in my life doesn’t define myself that way,” he wrote in an email. “I am a man dedicated to teach doing my best to help students to get ready to be successful in life.”

    He said he continues to teach in Ecuador.

    He added that stress from the incident has contributed to lasting medical problems, chiefly gastritis and colitis.

    It was not immediately clear how Gallo Espinoza’s admission will impact the criminal investigation. Mark Spivey, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, declined to comment on the status of the probe or on the priest’s statements. The criminal statute of limitations on sexual assault was abolished by the state Legislature in 1996.

    Should the prosecutor’s office charge Gallo Espinoza in absentia, it faces the hurdle of extraditing him. The United States and Ecuador do have an extradition treaty, but a 2012 analysis by the online magazine Slate found the South American nation to be among the least cooperative partners.

    Beyond the fate of Gallo Espinoza, the circumstances of his departure raise new questions about those who were made aware of it early on.

    Ramirez has said that within days of the attack, he reported it to Jeivi Hercules, his godfather, and Antonino Salazar, then the leader of the charismatic youth group at St. Mary’s. Both men confronted the priest, Ramirez said.
    Shortly afterward, he said, Salazar brought him to a Catholic Charities office, where Ramirez told a nun and a priest what had happened. The account is confirmed by a transcript of an interview Salazar gave to police in 2003. It was Catholic Charities that ultimately notified the prosecutor’s office, records show.

    While the circumstances of Gallo Espinoza’s abrupt departure have never been fully disclosed, he said in the telephone interview it was Salazar and Hercules who told him to run. Hercules, who has since entered the priesthood, is now parochial vicar at Queen of Peace Church in North Arlington.

    “They said, ‘You’re going to get in big trouble. You better leave. … God prays for you. Go back to your country,'” Gallo Espinoza said.

    Before leaving, he said, he attended confession with another priest and admitted what he did.

    Gallo Espinoza said he then bought a plane ticket. He did not inform Archbishop John J. Myers or any other official of his plan to run.

    Hercules has not responded to numerous requests for comment. Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the priest would not consent to an interview.

    Salazar’s wife said the couple would have no comment.

    Gallo Espinoza said he wanted to speak with Ramirez to apologize and to “clarify things.”

    “You know my truth, and I don’t want to make this situation bigger, but to look for a humble solution,” he wrote in an email. “… God bless America. I love it with all my heart.”

    RELATED: Full statement by the Rev. Manuel Gallo Espinoza on NJ.com at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2287297-manuel-gallo-espinoza-statement-on-nj-com.html


  3. Child victims partly to blame in priest sex abuse cases, Syracuse bishop testified

    UPDATE: The bishop issued a public letter in response to this story. [see story below]

    By John O'Brien | syracuse.com September 13, 2015

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The victims of child-molesting priests are partly to blame for their own abuse, the bishop of Syracuse said in a sworn deposition that revealed his views on the church's sex abuse scandal.

    Bishop Robert Cunningham testified in a 2011 deposition in response to a federal lawsuit filed by a man who said a priest in the Syracuse diocese sexually abused him as a child.

    The man's lawyer asked Cunningham whether, in the eyes of the church, a child molested by a priest has committed a sin.

    "The boy is culpable," Cunningham said Oct. 14, 2011, according to a transcript of the deposition.

    His sworn testimony provides rare insight into the thoughts of the highest-ranking Catholic in Syracuse about one of the most troubling chapters in the church's history.

    Cunningham believes no child is responsible for being sexually abused, a diocese official said this week. It's unfair to use the deposition to characterize his position otherwise, the official said.

    Bishop tries to explain
    Later in the deposition, Cunningham backed off the statement somewhat, saying he'd have to know the child's role.

    "Well, I mean, without knowing the circumstances completely, did the boy encourage, go along with (it) in any way?" Cunningham said.

    The lawyer asked Cunningham if he could imagine any circumstance in which a 14- or 15-year-old boy could be held responsible in the eyes of the church when a priest asks him to engage in sex.

    "I would not – obviously, what the priest did was wrong," Cunningham said. "You're asking me if the young man had any culpability, and I can't judge that."

    Lawyer Raymond Schlather of Ithaca asked: If an abused boy wanted to confess to Cunningham, would he tell the boy he committed no sin?

    "I do not know whether I would say that," Cunningham said.

    Experts react

    The bishop's testimony was startling to a former Catholic priest who has written extensively on sexuality in the church.

    "That is so absurd," said Richard Sipe of La Jolla, Calif. "It's like saying a child who's beaten is responsible for the beating. It's prehistoric. I can't believe a bishop in (2011) said this."

    The Catholic Church holds that the age of reason is 7 years old, but that pertains to deciding what between right and wrong, Sipe said. When a priest tells a child that having sex with him is right, the child should not be held responsible, Sipe said.

    "It's preposterous," said Patrick Wall of Minnesota, a former Catholic priest who's testified as an expert in priest sexual abuse cases over the past 15 years. "There's no way, either in law or in moral theology or in canon law, which Bishop Cunningham is trained in, that a child can consent to that crime."

    It's highly unusual, but not unheard of, for a bishop to make such a claim, Wall and Sipe said.

    "But in 2015, after a couple decades' worth of child sexual abuse litigation, after supposedly having the zero tolerance policy come into effect in the U.S. and for the various popes professing that there's going to be a new way and a new day, this is honestly a huge setback," Wall said.

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  4. Diocese responds

    The diocese takes issue with anyone characterizing the 2011 deposition as Cunningham blaming the victim.

    "Bishop Cunningham firmly believes and states (in the deposition) that the boy is not responsible at any level for that act and the abusive actions of a priest were wrong," diocese spokeswoman Danielle Cummings said. "Depositions by their very nature are meant to be discerning and contentious. Questions are often repeated and wide ranging. One phrase cannot be quoted."

    Cunningham's remark about culpability was in response to questions about confession, she said. He was "trying to explain that he does not know what is on the minds or hearts of any person."

    The deposition was taken as part of Dennis Brennan's lawsuit against the Syracuse Diocese. He said he was sexually abused by the Rev. Thomas Neary when Brennan was 13 years old. Brennan sued to try to get the diocese to pay for the cost of undergoing counseling as a result of the abuse. The lawsuit was settled last year, but the terms were not made public.

    The diocese found credible allegations of child-molesting against Neary, according to court papers. He died in 2001.

    After abusing Brennan, Neary told the boy he had to confess, according to the deposition.

    In his deposition, Cunningham said it was wrong of Neary to take Brennan's confession. Schlather asked why.

    Bishop calls victim 'accomplice'

    "Because the priest does not have the ability to absolve an accomplice in a sin such as this," Cunningham said. "I'm saying that a priest does not have the power, the authority, to absolve anyone who cooperated with him in – was an accomplice to him in a sexual sin."

    Schlather later asked if Cunningham thought Brennan fit the definition of an accomplice, and the bishop backed off his characterization.

    "How I have trouble answering that is it's very difficult for me to know what was going – what goes on in the mind of a 14- or 15-year-old boy when this is happening," Cunningham said.

    "The priest is clearly wrong," he said. "I don't know – if what happened happened, then certainly Mr. Brennan has every right to feel abandoned and apart. And, certainly, I don't think there would be culpability, but I mean, I can't make that judgment."

    Cunningham used the word "accomplice" in explaining why a priest shouldn't take the confession of someone he'd sexually abused, Cummings said. The word's meaning in canon law isn't the same as in criminal or civil law, she said.

    "The Bishop used this term with his own canonical understanding of the general context and usage of the word, which is 'involved without regard to one's willingness or intent'" Cummings said.

    Diocesan official: I'd have objected

    The bishop's testimony came up in the deposition of another diocesan official in 2011, also in the Brennan case. Nancy Wright is a member of the Diocesan Review Board, which responds to child-molesting allegations against priests.

    Schlather read to Wright the portion of Cunningham's deposition where he says the boy is culpable. She said she'd been unaware of it.

    "It was never conveyed to me, and I certainly would be very vocal in my objections to such a statement," said Wright, a psychiatric social worker with years of experience counseling child-molesting victims.

    "The only way that a victim answers in the sense of feeling guilty about that is because their physical body responds," Wright testified. "That's not culpability. That's a biological reaction."

    Survivors of priest sexual abuse want Cunningham to resign partly because of what he said in that 2011 deposition.

    The survivors seeking Cunningham's resignation include Charles Bailey, who said he was also a child victim of Neary's.

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  5. About 10 years ago, Bailey asked then-Bishop James Moynihan whether the church held children victims partly responsible for sexual abuse from priests.

    The bishop said it did, according to Bailey.

    "Moynihan said that right to my face – 'The age of reason is 7, so if you're at least 7 you're culpable for your actions,' " Bailey said. "That kind of floored me."

    Moynihan is too ill to be interviewed, Cummings said.

    Survivors call for bishop's resignation

    Bailey and another survivor of child-molesting priests, Kevin Braney, plan to start an online petition seeking Cunningham's resignation. They'll plan to give it to Pope Francis when he visits New York City in two weeks.

    Along with the 2011 deposition, they'll also cite Cunningham's refusal to publicly release the names of the priests against whom the diocese has found credible allegations of child-molesting.

    About 30 Catholic dioceses across the country publish the names of priests with credible allegations of child-molesting. The Rochester diocese is among them.

    The survivors will also cite what they say is evidence that priests from other dioceses with child-molesting allegations against them have been shipped to a retirement home for priests in Syracuse.

    The diocese denied stashing priests from other areas.

    "The Diocese is only responsible for the priests of the Diocese of Syracuse and those who have permission to serve in this diocese having proof of being in good standing," Cummings said. "If there is a priest from another diocese with a credible allegation and with faculties removed who is living in Syracuse, the Diocese of Syracuse has no authority over that priest."
    Cunningham's deposition might be the most troubling of the survivors' concerns, they said.

    "It's disgusting," Braney said. "It implies the boy has power in that relationship."
    When he was an altar boy in Manlius, Braney was taught that the priest was the closest person to God, he said.

    "It's almost worse than the abuse itself," he said of the idea that the victim is partly to blame.

    National advocates group reacts

    David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said there's nothing in the Catholic Church's teaching that supports Cunningham's testimony.

    "Blaming a victim of childhood sexual violence for his or her trauma is among the most inhumane things I can imagine a person saying, especially a well-educated man like a bishop," Clohessy said. "It's important to remember that a deposition remarks are the opposite of off-handed remarks. Cunningham chose his words carefully. That makes his callousness even more alarming."

    The survivors have been working with two lawyers nationally known for filing legal cases on behalf of victims of child-molesting. Jonathan Little of Indianapolis and Robert Allard of San Francisco have been advising Braney and helping him find a way to challenge the diocese.

    The survivors will push for the passage of a state law that would allow claims of child-molesting from years ago to be prosecuted criminally and civilly. Those claims are now beyond the statute of limitations.

    Braney, Bailey and two other victims of child-molesting priests plan to hold a "community meeting" at 7 p.m. Monday at the Craftsman Inn in Fayetteville to start the petition.

    "He's probably a wonderful man who's given much to the church and the Syracuse community, but he's not fit to lead," said Braney, of Denver.

    Braney said he was sexually abused more than a dozen times in the early 1980s by Monsignor Charles Eckermann. The diocese found Braney's accusations to be credible and defrocked Eckermann last year.

    see Bishop Cunningham Deposition Excerpt 2011 at:


  6. Syracuse bishop on 2011 deposition

    My words gave wrong impression to child-molesting victims

    By John O'Brien | syracuse.com September 13, 2015

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Roman Catholic bishop of Syracuse issued a public letter today clarifying a 2011 deposition in which he said child victims of priest sexual abuse were partly to blame.

    Bishop Robert Cunningham sent the letter in response to a story on Syracuse.com and in The Post-Standard that cited his deposition in a federal lawsuit.

    "Victims of abuse are never at fault!" Cunningham wrote.

    "Depositions are difficult by their nature," he wrote. "The line of questioning varied between the specific and generic scenarios concerning the Sacrament of Confession."

    He said he was trying to explain that he didn't know what went on in a person's heart and mind.

    "I tried my best to answer questions and I must admit gave responses that I wish were different," he wrote. "It saddens me to read the article and to realize that my words gave the wrong impression to victims, their families and the people of the diocese that I believe the victims of abuse are at fault. Nothing could be further from the truth."

    In the deposition, Cunningham said,"the boy is culpable" and later referred to victims as accomplices.

    "Bottom line is I cannot go back and change my words but I can assure you that I did not believe the individual involved in the case was at fault," Cunningham wrote.

    The deposition was taken in a federal lawsuit against the diocese, filed by a man who said he was sexually abused as a child by a Syracuse priest.

    A national victims' advocate group responded to the story today by calling for New York Cardinal Tim Dolan to "harshly, publicly and immediately denounce" Cunningham and his predecessor, Bishop James Moynihan, for blaming victims of pedophile priests.

    The Syracuse.com story reported that a survivor of a priest's child-molesting, Charles Bailey, said Moynihan told him 10 years ago that victims were partly to blame.

    "Shame on any and every Catholic official who ignores – and thus essentially endorses – these mean-spirited remarks," said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, outreach director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

    see the Bishops Letter at: