The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops face a class action lawsuit that looks to represent thousands of individuals who were allegedly abused as children by priests.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are among the defendants in a proposed class action lawsuit that looks to represent thousands of individuals who were allegedly abused as children by priests. The 47-page complaint, which also names as defendants a bishop; a priest; the estates of two deceased priests; the assistance coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse; and a number of John Doe defendants who allegedly committed sexual abuses but whose identities are yet unknown, stems from what the plaintiff alleges is a “severe and long-term pattern of organized sexual abuse” of an unknown number of children by predatory priests.
The plaintiff, who as a youth was sheltered at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, claims he was raped as a child by the bishop and deceased priest defendants. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, the lawsuit alleges, effectively housed a “[large] network” of predatory priests since at least the 1940s and continuing through the present day. The alleged bad actor priests, the case continues, could never have continued with their apparent crimes undetected were they not “harbored, protected and facilitated” by the church, which the lawsuit alleges “shuffled them around” and engaged in “numerous acts of fraud and obstruction of justice” to ensure business went on as usual.
“The Diocese collected and literally sheltered known child rapist priests in Syracuse in a coordinated scheme to protect the Church from liability and defraud parishioners who donated countless amounts of money that was then used to pay for the legal defense of rapist priests,” the lawsuit reads. “This class action involves the sexual abuse, exploitation, and perpetual rape of hundreds of innocent children by defendants, clergyman, and religious entities entrusted to protect them."
After describing in graphic detail years of alleged sexual abuse suffered by the plaintiff, the lawsuit goes on to claim that the Syracuse Diocese, rather than take accountability for its predatory clergy and report allegations of child molestation to the police, instead “took every action to ignore and deny all plausibility for the perpetual abuse.” It was commonplace, according to the lawsuit, for priests alleged to have molested children in other parts of New York to be moved to the Diocese of Syracuse, which the plaintiff alleges “accepted known child molesters” despite possessing knowledge of their crimes.
Alleging the Syracuse Diocese’s “callous disregard” continued to this day, the lawsuit claims that “several molester priests” who were the subject of credible sexual abuse allegations were living in a now-closed property owned by the Syracuse Diocese as recently as 2015.
As for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ role in the alleged system described in the lawsuit, the plaintiff charges the entity, after drafting in 1992 a “landmark” charter in response to the Catholic Church’s child sexual abuse crisis, has “failed to uphold the unambiguous terms of the Charter.” The lawsuit claims that though the 1992Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Peopleaimed to bind bishops and dioceses to mechanisms that could better handle reports of sexual abuse, the terms were simply not followed or upheld by either the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Syracuse Diocese.
Please be advised the language in the complaint below is graphic.