TRENTON, N.J. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A wave of sex abuse lawsuits is building against Catholic dioceses and religious orders in New Jersey.
On Monday, attorneys for plaintiff Todd Kostrub filed suit against the diocese of Trenton and the Franciscan Friars – Providence of the Immaculate Conception, alleging that from 1972–1982, he was sexually abused by Br. Kurt Munn at Holy Assumption Church in Roebling.
Kostrub and his attorneys accuse diocesan and Franciscan authorities of facilitating the abuse. According to the complaint: "Defendants' breach of their duties include, but are not limited to: failure to protect Plaintiff from a known danger, failure to have sufficient policies and procedures to prevent child sex abuse, [and] failure to properly implement policies and procedures to prevent child sex abuse ... ."
They also cite "failure to take reasonable measures to make sure that policies and procedures to prevent child sex abuse were working, failure to adequately inform families and children of the risks of child sex abuse, [and] failure to investigate risks of child sex abuse" as reasons for their suit.
Until now, Kostrub has been unable to seek justice owing to New Jersey's statute of limitations. But the state's new Victim's Rights Bill, which debuted Dec. 1, extends the statute of limitations in civil actions for sexual abuse claims and creates a two-year window for sex abuse victims to file suit against their alleged attackers.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Kostrub praised all who have worked to enact the bill: "For the first time in my life I have a vehicle to speak; to expose to the world what occurred ... to name this offender and expose what he did to me and many other boys; to come out of the shadows."
Kostrub slammed the diocese and the Franciscans for "the concealment, the deceit, the aiding of this individual over the years," noting they "have never named him as a predator."
Farther south on Monday, another victim filed suit against the diocese of Camden and the Brothers of Charity.
Michael Troiano alleges that he was abused from roughly 1978–1980 by Br. Walter Hicks at St. Peter's Church in Pleasantville. Hicks, whose name has never appeared on any diocesan abusive clergy list, later left the Brothers of Charity, reportedly to work as a therapist counseling victims of sexual abuse.
Explaining his decision to move forward, on Tuesday, Troiano told reporters: "I've tried for years to bring accountability, bring attention to this crime and neglect and cover-up and I can't do it alone.
"I can't do it without attorneys helping me," he continued. "I've tried. I've asked the brothers to help. I've asked the diocese to help. I've asked their coordinators to help. And I'm still here waiting for them to be accountable."
Like Kostrub, Troiano had been unable to file a complaint against Hicks, as the statute of limitations had run.
"Until this point in time," Anderson observed, "the law did not allow [Troiano] to come forward, did not allow a survivor to hold the perpetrator accountable or those who chose to protect the perpretrator."
But today, he added, "the law has changed."
The Trenton and Camden suits come one day after victim John Bellocchio filed suit against the archdiocese of Newark and serial sexual predator Theodore McCarrick, whom he alleges abused him as a teenager in the mid-1990s.
According to Bellocchio's complaint, McCarrick, then archbishop of Newark, "inflicted unpermitted harmful and offensive bodily sexual contact" on him "on the premises of a parish."
On Monday, Bellocchio told reporters that he was filing suit to "be able to move forward, and to help the Catholic Church move forward, because it is time that they own, claim and acknowledge their sins and clean the house from the top down."
"I want there to be real, effective change from the top down," he added. "It is time for the bishops, the archbishops, the cardinals, and even the Holy Father to stop hiding behind their titles and their robes and acknowledge the truth that lies in front of them ... ."