2 priests, archdiocese named in abuse suit

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Lawyers Marci Hamilton (left) and Dan Monahan announce a suit against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia outside City Hall. Barbara Blaine held photographs of alleged abuse victims.

Seizing on the latest allegations of abuse by priests, a 26-year-old man on Monday sued the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and its leaders, contending they let two priests molest him as a child, then victimized him again by misleading him when he sought help as an adult.

Filed in Philadelphia, the lawsuit named as defendants Cardinals Anthony Bevilacqua and Justin Rigali, archdiocesan administrators, the two priests, and Malvern Preparatory School, where one of the acts of abuse allegedly occurred.

Unlike scores of similar lawsuits filed in recent years, this one goes beyond the physical assaults and attacks the church's response to the victim.

It contends that years after the abuse occurred, archdiocesan officials conspired to steer the victim, identified in the suit only as John Doe, away from law enforcement. And it says the victim coordinators who were supposed to help him instead pressed him to sign forms releasing private information to them but not to police.

"There's severe fraud on the part of the archdiocese, which has been misleading victims into thinking that they are getting assistance from their outreach program," said Marci Hamilton, a lawyer who filed the case.

The archdiocese said it would have no comment.

The suit marked the latest development since a grand jury indicted four priests and released a 124-page companion report last week that said the church failed to protect victims or properly deal with abusive clerics.

One priest named in both the criminal and civil cases is Msgr. William Lynn, the former secretary of clergy responsible for assigning priests in the region.

Three other priests and a former schoolteacher from Philadelphia-area parishes face charges of abusing boys in the 1990s.

Each was released on bail Friday, posted by relatives, themselves, or, in one case, a fellow priest, court records show. The same records show that one defendant, former teacher Bernard Shero of Bristol, tried to kill himself after the charges were announced.

The lawsuit filed Monday quotes liberally from the grand jury findings - and its predecessor, a similarly scathing report released in 2005. Hamilton said the case is unusual because it is built in part on the results of the criminal investigation.

But Dan Monahan, another lawyer for the plaintiff, said the timing was merely coincidental. He said he and his client had been preparing their case for months.

The priests named in the lawsuit are two whose pasts have already been well-documented and who are no longer in the church. One, Richard Cochrane, served a prison term for sexually abusing a student at Malvern Prep. The other, Martin Satchell, was ousted from the priesthood in 2004 after multiple complaints.

According to the complaint, the victim was in the second or third grade at St. Aloysius Academy in Bryn Mawr in the early 1990s when Satchell, then a deacon at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, visited the school. More than once, the suit says, Satchell molested the boy in a restroom or classroom.

As a freshman at Malvern Prep, the plaintiff struggled with the lingering effects of the abuse and sought help from a school counselor: Cochrane.

"He went to him for counseling," Monahan said, "and at that point, that priest molested him also."

Satchell's last known address was a Philadelphia apartment. Cochrane most recently lived in Dover, N.H. Neither had a listed phone number or could be reached Monday for comment.

The plaintiff decided to come forward after the 2005 grand jury report, his lawyers said. But Radnor Township police and prosecutors in Chester and Delaware Counties told him the statute of limitations had expired on any crimes.

He then approached the archdiocese through its victim-assistance program, the complaint said. But archdiocesan officials refused to help him because he wouldn't sign a form acknowledging that he didn't want them to release information to authorities.

"The victim-assistance programs are used by the Archdiocese to gather information to give its attorneys in order to discredit the victims, defend the Archdiocese against any claims and conceal the crimes of Archdiocese employees," the lawsuit states.

Under the program, coordinators are supposed to gather victims' information and pass it to police or an independent review board set up by the archdiocese. Last week, the archdiocese announced it was establishing a new post to oversee those investigations and notify police of victim complaints.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of sexual abuse, negligence, and negligent supervision related to the abuse. And it accuses the church hierarchy of fraud, concealment, and conspiracy to endanger children.

Hamilton said the two cardinals were named as defendants because both were ultimately responsible for overseeing and implementing a system to respond to victims' complaints, a system she contends failed miserably.


Contact staff writer John P. Martin at 215-854-4774 or jmartin@phillynews.com.