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NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - A victim of clergy sex abuse is suing the archdiocese of New York alleging he was abused as a boy by two priests, while the archdiocese did nothing to stop it.
Represented by Mitchell Garebedian — the attorney made famous for his representation of abuse victims during the 2002 Boston sex abuse scandal and who has never lost a case — John Michael Norman filed his lawsuit in April, but the suit has been stayed until Aug. 14, when the look-back window opens under the amended Child Victims Act, which circumvents the statute of limitations.
The lawsuit demands a jury trial and names as defendants the archdiocese of New York, Our Lady Help of Christians, Our Lady Help Of Christians School and the Catholic School Region of Staten Island.
Norman alleges that between the ages of 8–10 and as a student at Our Lady Help of Christians School on Staten Island (around 1969–1977), both Fr. Arthur N. Fernando and Msgr. Jeremiah Brennan sexually abused him on multiple occasions.
Fernando would use masks and other items to attract children to himself during recess at Our Lady Help of Christians School, lending the items to children and requiring them to return those items to him at the rectory, where he could get them alone.
From approximately 1972–1973, Fernando "sexually assaulted, abused, and/or had sexual contact with the Plaintiff [Norman] at the rectory on multiple occasions," according to the lawsuit.
When Norman began serving as an altar boy around 1974, he came under the influence of the second abuser, Brennan.
"The abuse occurred most times Plaintiff [Norman] served as an altar boy under the direction and control of Monsignor Brennan and continued for approximately six months," states the lawsuit.
The archdiocese, parish and school are implicated inasmuch as they "knew and/or reasonably should have known, and/or knowingly condoned, and/or covered up, the inappropriate and unlawful sexual activities of Father Fernando and Monsignor Brennan."
The lawsuit contains seven causes of action, including gross negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and failure to report abuse.
Norman's case precipitated the archdiocese of New York's own lawsuit against 32 insurance companies for breach of contract, after the companies indicated they would not pay out abuse settlements, expected to be in the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars, once the look-back window opens on Aug. 14.
According to the New York Law Journal, "The suit serves as a proactive move by the archdiocese, which is seeking a declaration by the court that the insurance companies must provide coverage for, and defend the church against, those claims."
The archdiocese filed the lawsuit after Indemnity Insurance Co. of North America (INA), a subsidiary of Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, clarified the company would not defend the archdiocese against a lawsuit by clergy sex abuse victim John Michael Norman.
Another sex abuse lawsuit filed against the archdiocese this year involves a woman who claims she was repeatedly molested by nuns as a child.
Robin Campell is suing the archdiocese for sexual and physical abuse she allegedly suffered as a girl at the hands of religious sisters at the orphanage of Mount Loretto Catholic Mission in Staten Island.
According to Campbell's petition, sisters at the orphanage sexually molested her from the ages of 6–11, with the abuse often occurring at night:
We slept 100 girls in a room, with 50 bunk beds, and I was molested repeatedly at night. I would be assigned to the bed closest to the door. I would often wake up and Sister Rosemarie would be at the side of my bed (just inside the door) with her hand under the covers ... . This happened very frequently, way more times than I could count, and many more times than I could possibly remember.
She also claims the sisters physically beat her and even once broke four of her fingers by slamming the piano cover down on her hand as she was playing.
If the archdiocese loses its lawsuit against the insurance companies and they fail to pay, it will fall to the archdiocese to satisfy all abuse settlements. If the archdiocese is unable to do so, it might go the way of a number of other dioceses and be forced to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
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