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NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - An ex-seminarian punished for blowing the whistle on sexual misconduct is continuing his fight in court.
Anthony Gorgia filed his brief on appeal Wednesday in the NY Supreme Court's appellate division, accusing Rome's Pontifical North American College (NAC) of unlawfully retaliating against him after he witnessed homosexual grooming.
The lawsuit, authored by attorney Raymond Belair, asks for $25 million in damages, and accuses New York's Cdl. Timothy Dolan of colluding with NAC rector Fr. Peter Harman to oust Gorgia.
"The NAC, through its employees, concocted a wholly false narrative of fabricated deficiencies which narrative was documentably untrue and baseless," the filing states.
Gorgia attended the NAC starting in 2017 and was considered a stellar student, receiving excellent scores and resounding praise from his superiors. That changed in his second year.
In fall 2018, "he witnessed [Vice Rector Fr. Adam] Park approach a seminarian from behind in the NAC refectory and initiate uninvited physical contact with the seminarian by what appeared to be back rubbing massaging action."
Gorgia would later learn that "Park was known as an open homosexual while Vice Rector at the NAC."
He would also learn that Fr. Harman "was a furtive homosexual, having participated in an orgy with his bishop in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, with seminarians present."
Church Militant exposed this incident in Spotlight: IL Orgy—The Rome Connection. Eyewitness Thomas Muñoz was present at the orgy, where he confirmed Fr. Harman allegedly engaged in sex with then-Bp. George Lucas, at the time head of the Springfield diocese. Others reportedly present included then-Msgr. Kevin Vann, Msgr. Kenneth Steffen, Msgr. John Renken and three unnamed seminarians.
Muñoz was at the time coordinator for Hispanic ministry in the diocese, and an active homosexual involved in relationships with diocesan priests. The orgy reportedly took place at the after-party following Msgr. Renken's 25th anniversary of his ordination, on the third floor of the bishop's rectory.
Muñoz alleges that after the incident, Bp. Lucas threatened him to remain silent. When Muñoz refused to comply, Renken filed a false police report accusing him of burglarizing local churches.
Muñoz was jailed for several months, until the court dismissed the charges as baseless and ordered Muñoz's release.
According to Gorgia's lawsuit, this track record of retaliation was repeated in Gorgia's case, when various reasons were fabricated by Harman and Dolan to justify their refusal to allow him to return as a seminarian after his second year.
Shortly after Church Militant's Spotlight, Fr. Harman resigned as rector of the NAC and returned to ministry in Springfield, now under Bp. Thomas Paprocki. Harman has never acknowledged the allegations about the orgy.
The trial court dismissed Gorgia's lawsuit on procedural grounds, never reaching the merits of the case.
The brief on appeal asks the court to reverse the lower court's rulings on a number of procedural issues, including lack of standing and failure to give notice.
At the time of the lower court's dismissal, Catholic News Agency (CNA) omitted mention of the appeal, misleading the public into thinking the lawsuit was dead.
"Omission and misrepresentations of the full truth caused serious harm to my client," wrote Attorney Joseph Mulvey in an Aug. 8 letter to CNA.
He singled out a Jan. 18, 2022 article in which CNA "misled the public to believe that [Gorgia's] litigation was terminated."
Further, the manner in which CNA presented [current NAC rector Msgr.] Powers' statement would cause any reasonable reader unfamiliar with the litigation to incorrectly conclude that the lawsuit had been "dismissed" owing to a lack of evidence supporting the allegations rather than questions of technicalities or jurisdiction.
As CNA is fully aware, the Judge's ruling had nothing to do with the merits of the case.
After being contacted by victims' advocate Gene Gomulka, who has served as spokesman for Gorgia, Catholic World Report (which had republished CNA's report), decided to remove the factually inaccurate article.
"Having reviewed your attachment, I have chosen to remove the CNA news brief from the CWR site," wrote Editor-in-Chief Carl Olson in a Sept. 28 email to Gomulka.
As a result of CNA's omissions, donations to Gorgia's legal fund dropped sharply.
The appeals brief argues, among other things, that Fr. Harman and Cdl. Dolan had a fiduciary relationship to Gorgia "in which they were in positions of de facto control and complete dominance over him."
As those in control of his advancement, "plaintiff was uniquely vulnerable and incapable of self-protection regarding his education and formation."
It argues that "all defendants breached their duties when they acted in a manner which violated the best interests of plaintiff to whom they owed a FIDUCIARY duty of loyalty."
People may donate to Gorgia's legal fund here.
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