By Jorge I. Domínguez-López
At a news conference on Tuesday in New York City, Minnesota-based attorney Jeff Anderson announced a lawsuit against the eight dioceses of the New York State Catholic Conference on behalf of sexual abuse survivor Paul Dunn.
The lawsuit is requesting an order to force each diocese to release the names of all priests accused of child molestation, including the release of documents attached to those cases.
Dunn says a Queens priest, Fr. Cornelius T. Otero, who died in 1998, sexually molested him as a boy in the late 1970s. At that time, Otero was assigned to St. Joan of Arc parish in Jackson Heights.
The lawsuit claims that in 1979 “Fr. Otero was arrested for selling books containing obscene photographs of children to undercover law enforcement officers.” After his arrest and release, it states that the Brooklyn Diocese “sent Fr. Otero out of the state of New York to receive medical care,” but didn’t inform the public about his crime.
Dunn’s attorney said earlier this year, his client rejected a $200,000 settlement offered by the Diocese of Brooklyn through its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program or IRCP.
The Diocese of Brooklyn said it established the program last year to help survivors of sexual abuse heal and to offer some element of closure. Survivors are free to reveal any details about their case publicly.
The lawsuit also claims that the eight dioceses continue to cover up crimes committed by priests.
Will Fight Claims in Court
The Brooklyn Diocese is rejecting the claims, saying it looks forward to fighting them in court.
“Of the 13 names of priests presented by Anderson at his press conference today, 12 are deceased,” said diocesan spokesperson Adriana Rodriguez.
In addition, Dunn is demanding that the eight dioceses “work with civil authorities to create, implement and follow a policy to deal with sexually abusive clergy that will better protect children and the general public from further harm.”
But the Brooklyn Diocese says it has been working with authorities and survivors of sexual abuse for years.
“We have numerous programs in place for the protection of children and adults,” Rodriguez said.
“We have an independent reporting line where anyone can report a case of sexual abuse and the report goes straight to law enforcement authorities. And we have been working closely with the district attorneys in Brooklyn and Queens since 2002, handing over any and all claims of sexual abuse.”
Diocesan Hotline for Reporting Abuse
In the Diocese of Brooklyn, anyone who is a victim of sexual abuse, or is aware of sexual abuse committed by a member of the clergy, a diocesan employee, or volunteer, is urged to report it. Any allegations called into the diocesan reporting line at 1-888-634-4499 will be immediately turned over to law enforcement.