UPDATE: Lawsuits Filed Against Chautauqua County Churches For Past Sexual Abuse
Lawsuits have been filed against at least four Chautauqua County churches in Erie County Supreme Court on Wednesday as part of the Child Victims Act that allows victims of childhood sex abuse to bring civil complaints against their abusers.
Locations of the churches named in the suits include Jamestown, Frewsburg and Forestville.
One suit, filed in Erie County Supreme Court, names the Buffalo Diocese, St. John’s Church, Holy Apostles Parish and others associated with the church as defendants.
The victim, according to their attorney — Stephen Boyd of Williamsville — reported to be the subject of “unpermitted sexual contact” by the Rev. Francis T. Hogan at the 508 Cherry St. church between 1948 and 1949. The victim was 9 to 10 years old when the sexual abuse is alleged to have occurred.
Hogan was a Roman Catholic priest employed by the diocese and the parish.
“Defendants knew of should have known that Fr. Hogan was a danger to children before Fr. Hogan sexually assaulted Plaintiff,” the suit states.
The suit also claims that the church, now known as the Holy Apostles Parish, in addition to the diocese failed to report known or suspected abuse of children by Hogan.
“As a direct result of Defendants’ negligence as described herein, Plaintiff has suffered, and will continue to suffer, great pain of mind and body, severe and permanent emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, humiliation, physical, personal and psychological injuries,” the suit claims.
Also named in a lawsuit Wednesday is Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, formerly St. Rose of Lima, 11 Center St., Forestville. St. The victim, according to their attorney, was reportedly subjected to sexual abuse by the Rev. John Kempczynski, a priest assigned to the parish, between 1971 and 1972. The victim was between 6 and 7 years old at the time of the abuse.
Elsewhere, the diocese and St. James and Our Lady of Victory were named in a suit as part of the Child Victims Act. The complaint involves Our Lady of Victory, at the time located in Frewsburg, now part of St. James Parish.
The victim claims they were abused by the Rev. James P. Hayes, a Catholic priest, at the Frewsburg church between 1967 to 1970.
St. Joseph’s Church in Fredonia was also listed in a lawsuit Wednesday brought by New York City attorney Jordan K. Merson. Filed in Erie County, the suit claims the Rev. Edward J. Walker sexually abused the victim at the 145 E. Main St. church and “other venues” between 1953 and 1963.
According to the suit, the abuse took place weekly when the victim was 12 to 21 years old.
The victim, who was named in the suit but is being withheld because he is a victim of alleged abuse, began spending time with Walker around 1953 after the victim’s father died.
“Walker, using his position of power and authority provided to him by the diocese and St. Joseph’s, manipulated plaintiff’s mother into trusting him to be alone with plaintiff and believing that he would be a good mentor for plaintiff,” the suit states.
Thousands of people who say they were molested as children in New York state had planned to file lawsuits this week against their alleged abusers and the institutions where they worked.
The Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, public schools and hospitals are among the many institutions expected to be named as defendants in the suits.
The first cases were filed Wednesday, the start of a one-year litigation window in New York allowing people to file civil lawsuits that had previously been barred by the state’s statute of limitations, which were among the nation’s tightest.
Lawmakers voted this year to extend the statute of limitations going forward and to create the one-year litigation window to give victims a new chance to file lawsuits.
“Child sexual abuse is a real epidemic. It’s been in the corners and in the shadows, but it is much more widespread than people want to admit,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The Child Victims Act says if you were sexually abused as a child, you have a right to justice and to make your case. Children have legal rights, and if you abuse a child, you’re going to have your day in court and you’re going to be called to answer for it.”