WATERTOWN — In raw numbers, the Diocese of Ogdensburg seems to have a disproportionately large number of sexual abuse cases filed against its priests compared to the numbers filed in much larger dioceses, causing lawyers to look into the role the north country has played for the Catholic Church over the years.

At a news conference in Watertown on Thursday, attorneys working with victims in dioceses throughout the state displayed a chart indicating the number of cases filed, the number of new perpetrators named since a victims act went into effect and the total number of named perpetrators in each diocese.

Under the newly enacted Child Victims Act, 14 lawsuits were filed against the Diocese of Ogdensburg on Wednesday.

By comparison, Syracuse, with 289,000 faithful according to the diocese’s Facebook page, and Rockville Centre, with 1,531,445 faithful according to the diocese’s website, had 6 and 19 cases filed, respectively.

“We’ve been watching things up here. They’ve been on our radar,” Jeff Anderson, principal of Jeff Anderson and Associates, said before the press conference, “We’re looking into whether this is a place priests were moved if they were accused.”

Mr. Anderson with Cynthia LaFave, principal of LaFave, Wein & Frament and Taylor Stippel, Anderson and Associates, spoke on behalf of the victims and praised the new Act as an opportunity for survivors to “regain their power.”

The Child Victims Act supplies a 365 day window that opened on Wednesday, giving survivors of child sexual abuse one year to bring lawsuits in cases that were previously barred by the statute of limitations, no matter when the abuse occurred.

“It’s the beginning of permission for survivors to take action and be believed,” Mr. Anderson said,

The director of communications for the Diocese of Ogdensburg, Darcy Fargo, said on Thursday, that while the Diocese could not speak to any specifics in ongoing litigation that it has been working with victims.

“I will note that the diocese did conduct an independent reconciliation and compensation program,” Ms. Fargo said, “That was a two year program and that made options available for victims for counseling, for reconciliation and for compensation and this is potentially a new option for victims, going through the State Child Victims Act and having the right to sue for compensation. Ultimately it is our goal to help any victim find healing through whatever mechanism they choose to pursue.”

The lawyers acknowledged after the press conference that the diocese had taken some steps, but said they had concealed more truth than they had shared, noting “half truths are whole lies.”

Through the law suits, the lawyers are seeking information they deem as important to protect other children and help other victims heal, like whether or not accused priests are still living and if so, their location and whether or not they are still acting priests.

“It’s time for truth to be known that has been so hidden by so many, for so long,” Mr. Anderson said.

Ms. Fargo said that there have been no recent claims against clergy in the Diocese.

“As a Diocese, we have received no credible allegations of this having occurred in the last 20 years,” she said. “So, we would like to think that the mechanisms that we put in place are working and that we are doing a better job.”

Mrs. LaFave and Mr. Anderson, however, said that it often takes victims a long time to come forward because the abuse of their trust by an important authority figure dis-empowers and traumatizes them.

They also said children that come forward are often not believed or considered “credible” by the adults they tell.

Of the 14 cases filed, four priests were accused for the first time including Father James A. Delbel, Father Joseph Francoeur and Father Andrew Mulvaney, all deceased, and Father John (Jack) L. Downs who is retired but is still ministering to a community, according to Mr. Anderson.

Other priests named in the lawsuits include: Father John Fallon, Father Edwin A. Kennedy, Father Emile G. LaLonde, Father Gerald F. McGrath, Father Liam O’Doherty, Father Albert R. Plante, Father Robert Shurtleff, Father Clark S. White and Father Paul Worczak.

The allegations against the priests involved their time at parishes throughout the diocese including Notre Dame and St. Mary’s Cathedral, Ogdensburg; St. Lawrence and St. Joseph, Massena; St. Mary’s, Potsdam; Holy Family, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and St. Patrick’s, Watertown; St. Andrew’s, Sackets Harbor; St. Cyril of Alexandria, Alexandria Bay; St. Martin, Port Leyden; St. Ann, Saint Regis Falls; St. John the Baptist, Madrid; Holy Angels, Altona; St. Joseph, Mooers and St. Elizabeth, Elizabethtown.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(4) comments

Krsparks

There are several priests on the complete list who were in Tupper Lake. The unfortunate part is that the community would rather still support the church instead of any victims. People can act naive but many knew what was happening. It's absolutely disgusting. I hope the church is forced to make the files public. There are priests on that list who live quietly in unsuspecting neighborhoods. The church has ruined many lives. Time to be exposed.

Nice_Commenter

Certain areas were worse than others. North of Plattsburgh probably was the worst. Let me give you a rundown of West Chazy and Altona.



My family lived in Plattsburgh, but was French. We were told we could not go to the nice church in Plattsburgh and had to go to West Chazy. My family's first priest would tell men he had to "test if men could have children" before he wold marry them. The next priest would talk women on their death beds into changing their wills where they would leave their homes to him personally (not the church) After him was Father Downs who is mentioned in this article. (I know for 100% fact this isn't a complete list due to priest #1 mentioned above). I went to my First Communion classes with Father Toth at Cumberland Head, who was also on the list.



My cousins went to Altona. There the priest was caught red handed by Federal Marshals with child p*rn*graphy, and yet if you read the newspaper Brwanza declared him innocent from the beginning. Then Brwanza turned the church and the parishoners against the Postmaster who had to cooperate with the federal investigation. The Postmaster was a church-every-sunday Catholic.



Virtually every priest my family dealt with is involved here. I would also like to point out that everybody except the willfully ignorant knew this was happening. My mom always warned me against ever being alone with a priest in the 1970's.

zeitgeist

Virtually all dioceses in the U.S. were dumping grounds to varying extents for abusive priests. Virtually all dioceses accepted abusive priests and transferred abusive priests, including the Diocese of Ogdensburg. However, characteristically, the Diocese of Ogdensburg was particularly vulnerable to becoming a true and insidious dumping ground for abusive priests-- rural and isolated, having a transient population and workforce, having a disproportionate number of working-class or poor children and families who were less apt to tell, more inclined to revere authority figures like priests, and more likely to be "pray, pay and obey" Catholics, and having local district attorneys and law enforcement officials who felt safe from reprisal and "under the radar" to collude with the Diocese and foster its cover ups in exchange for political support and other perks. It's heartbreaking that so many trusted institutions took advantage of our circumstances and imperiled and hurt us.

Nice_Commenter

They did not send the priest who molested kids to places where there was money. Both my mom and my fourth grade teacher (who was a seminary dropout) told stories of how kids from poor families would be mistreated by nuns and priests. As I detailed above, in the very rural area north of Plattsburgh basically every priest I ever met is on this list. Go to a nice suburb of Westchester and there would be none.

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