The fact that more lawsuits were filed Wednesday against the Roman Catholic Church in Hawaii alleging sexual abuse may not elicit much shock.
Such legal action against the church in Hawaii and everywhere else has been widespread in recent years.
So Kailua attorney Mark Gallagher, who filed the three latest lawsuits in 1st Circuit Court in Honolulu, shared information with reporters at a brief press conference to illustrate just how terrible child sex abuse can be for the young victim.
Photographs of former Hawaii priests have been advertised in hopes of encouraging sexual abuse victims to come forward with sexual abuse claims.
Here’s that information, claimed in a lawsuit and an August 2015 report written for Gallagher by Thomas Patrick Doyle, a Catholic priest now living in Virginia:
The sexual abuse of a victim identified as John Roe 2 began in 1973, when the boy’s family joined St. Anthony Parish in Kailua. That’s where Roe met two men who would become his alleged abusers, Fathers Joseph Henry and Joseph Ferrario.
Henry exposed himself to the 9-year-old victim, pushed him face down on the carpet and raped him, according to Doyle and the lawsuit.
A year later, Ferrario was named pastor of St. Anthony’s. The victim asked to speak with the priest about Father Henry and the sexual assault. As the victim spoke, Ferrario became sexually excited and forced the boy to perform oral sex, according to Doyle and the suit.
On behalf of attorneys representing the plaintiffs, Doyle reviewed files from the Diocese of Honolulu pertaining to Ferrario, who would later be elevated to bishop — even as “serious allegations” about him (e.g., sex with underaged boys and “homosexual behavior with age-appropriate men”) were shared with the Holy See — as well as depositions of Roe and others.
Henry and Ferrario are long dead, but the agony of sex abuse survivors lives on. Thanks to a state law extending the date to file civil claims and an aggressive publicity campaign to get more victims to come forward, more than 60 people have filed lawsuits in Hawaii alleging sexual abuse by members of the church.
Twenty-six lawsuits involving the Diocese of Honolulu and other religious orders have since been settled. John Roe 2’s case, filed in 2012, is one of them. Civil Beat columnist Denby Fawcett wrote about that last month after the victim — whose real name is Mark Pinkosh — shared his story with her directly.
Attorney Mark Gallagher said the window to bring forth civil claims of abuse closes April 24.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
So many lawsuits have been settled that the church, facing claims estimated to be in the millions of dollars, sued its Honolulu insurer last January for refusing to pay for the settlements.
The three latest lawsuits are on behalf of alleged victims identified only as John Roe 45, John Roe 46 and John Roe 47.
The first two complaints name Father Henry while the third one identifies a new alleged abuser, Father Donald Graff. Graff was a priest at the Cathedral of Her Lady of Peace.
One thing that rarely changes among the many complaints is how much a child looks up to a religious leader. Consider John Roe 47’s legal claim, for example:
“Plaintiff was raised in a devout Roman Catholic family. As a result of his upbringing Plaintiff developed great admiration, trust, reverence, and respect for the Roman Catholic church and its agents, and came to know Graff as a person of great influence and persuasion, authority figure, priest, spiritual advisor, and/or counselor.”
Another pattern is one of apparently willful inaction on the part of the church when told of the problems. The Graff lawsuit argues that the diocese “should have known the material facts regarding Graff’s sexual misconduct, impulses, and behavior, but failed to act on that knowledge thereby increasing the likelihood that Plaintiff would be harmed.”
The indifference extended to the top of the church.
“No bishop accused of sexual abuse of a minor was ever officially investigated or subject to canonical prosecution during the papacies of John Paul II (1978-2005) and Benedict XVI (2005-2013),” wrote Doyle.
Father Joseph Ferrario was bishop of Honolulu from 1982 until 1993.
The statute of limitations for civil claims was extended by the Hawaii Legislature in 2012 and again in 2014. But the “window,” as Gallagher calls it, will close April 24 barring further legislative action.
Gallagher, who has represented various plaintiffs in a number of actions, announced the lawsuits and the Doyle report to once again get the word out about the process that allows people with claims of incidents that occurred many years ago to come forward.
He said that he anticipates at least six more lawsuits will be filed before the window closes.
In a statement, the Very Reverend Gary Secor, vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu, said:
“We have not had the opportunity to review the documents that were filed in court this morning; however, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu remains committed to treating victims of sexual abuse with compassion and respect, with the goal of providing just resolution.”
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