A south New Jersey Catholic priest is being accused of child sexual abuse.The nephew of the late New York archbishop Cardinal John O'Connor made the claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday.
Richard Green, 31, who lives in southern New Jersey, claims he was repeatedly molested as a boy by the late Rev. John McDevitt when he was a 14-year-old freshman at Father Judge High School in Philadelphia.
Green alleges in the lawsuit that McDevitt, his religion teacher, knew he was O'Connor's nephew and threatened to give him a low grade in religion class if he did not attend private tutoring sessions, during which he was abused.
"Father McDevitt preyed on this 14-year-old boy because he knew what his family relationship was," said Green's attorney, Michael Reck.
The Rev. Kevin Nadolski, a spokesman for McDevitt's religious order, the Oblates of St. Francis De Sales, declined to comment on the lawsuit because officials had not had a chance to read it. Nadolski did confirm that Green previously had been referred by the Philadelphia archdiocese to the Oblates' victim's assistance coordinator. "It is my understanding that there has been some outreach and some services offered," said Nadolski, who also confirmed a previous allegation against McDevitt by another alleged victim of child sexual abuse.
Defendants in the lawsuit include the Oblates, the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Father Judge High School, and Salesianum School in Wilmington, where McDevitt taught in the 1980s before moving to Father Judge in 1990.
The lawsuit seeks "punitive damages in an amount appropriate to punish and set an example of Father McDevitt and defendants" but does not specify a dollar amount.
It alleges that McDevitt, who died in 1999, was part of "a ring of sexually abusing priests" at Salesianum, and that church officials were aware of the abuse but did nothing to stop it.
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"There was a nest of abusers there," said Reck, adding that church officials engaged in a "conspiracy of silence," reassigning the priests to other locations, including Father Judge, where they continued their abuse.
According to the lawsuit, Father Judge is operated by the Philadelphia archdiocese and the Delaware-based Oblates of St. Francis de Sales Inc. The lawsuit was filed in Delaware to take advantage of a 2007 law granting alleged victims of child sexual abuse a two-year window to file civil complaints that otherwise would be barred by the statute of limitations. The two-year window expires at the end of this month.
"It is something that has really empowered victims to come forward," Reck said.
Reck suggested that the alleged targeting of Green by McDevitt was not based on any animosity toward O'Connor, but on the potential embarrassment Green would suffer, as the archbishop's nephew, by receiving a low grade in religion class. Such a grade for a relative of a high-ranking church official was "simply not an option," Reck said.
According to Reck, the abuse continued throughout Green's freshman year. "During the worst of the times, it was several times a week," he said. Reck said the abuse ended only after Green, without disclosing the abuse, told his family that he would not return to the school for his sophomore year.
"I know it was a very hard fought battle and created a rift within his family," said Reck, who added that his client now works in the printing business and has never been married.
Reck said Green had a typical family relationship with his uncle but that there was no evidence that O'Connor ever knew of the abuse.
"I know he was the pressure point in order for McDevitt to maintain control over the victim," Reck said, adding that Green was threatened with both physical and mental abuse if he were to reveal the abuse.