WILMINGTON, Del. - A former Marine and Vietnam War veteran filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington and a church in the city, accusing them of doing nothing to stop a priest from sexually abusing him and other boys in the 1950s and 60s.
The diocese has acknowledged that the Rev. Edward B. Carley, who died in 1998 at age 82, abused a young male parishioner during his time as the assistant pastor at St. Ann's Catholic Church, from 1954 to 1962.
The diocese paid $65,000 to that parishioner, John F. Dougherty Jr., to reimburse him for counseling he said he needed as a result of the abuse. Dougherty said Carley raped him when he was 10-years-old and was serving as an altar boy at St. Ann's, and that Carley abused him repeatedly for several years afterward.
Douglas J. McClure, the plaintiff in the lawsuit filed Thursday, was a classmate of Dougherty's. Carley molested McClure two to three times a week over a period of two years, when McClure was between 8- and 10-years-old, said his attorney, Thomas Neuberger.
"I am just one of many victims, but I encourage others who have suffered in silence for so long also to come forward," McClure said in a statement. Neuberger did not allow McClure to speak to reporters, but McClure did say in response to a question at a news conference that the abuse has caused him to lose his religious faith.
Bob Krebs, a spokesman for the diocese, said he had not seen a copy of the lawsuit and had no comment.
According to the complaint, McClure, 60, psychologically suppressed all memories of the abuse until January 2005, when he read newspaper accounts of Dougherty's claims.
The claim of suppressed memories could prove crucial to McClure's case. Delaware has a two-year statute of limitations for civil claims, but a New Castle County judge ruled earlier this month that another man could pursue his claim against a priest because he filed the lawsuit within two years of the date he said memories of his abuse surfaced.
The lawsuit alleges that the diocese and St. Ann's were aware of the abuse but did nothing to stop it, instead transferring Carley to St. Peter's Cathedral and then to several parishes on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where he allegedly continued to molest children. Carley retired from active ministry in 1993.
According to the lawsuit, Carley was independently wealthy, and he frequently bought toys, gifts and sporting equipment for boys and took them on overnight trips away from their parents. He also allegedly molested boys while discussing spiritual matters, by reading to them from the Bible orexplaining the mystery of the Eucharist.
Carley was one of 20 suspected pedophile priests whose names were released in November by the diocese, which also dedicated this year's Advent season to victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families.
Under Delaware law, plaintiffs are not permitted to state the amount of monetary damages they are seeking, but Neuberger said "this is without a doubt a case whose value exceeds a million dollars."
"His case is a very substantial case," Neuberger said. "If you think of being victimized two to three times a week, 200 to 300 times (total), the jury is going to have to assess a value to each sexual assault."
McClure did 14 months of combat duty in Vietnam, Neuberger said, and he also suppressed memories of his combat experience, which left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He's being treated by Veterans Affairs psychiatrists.
Neuberger's firm is also representing two other men who claim they were abused by priests, including Eric Eden, whose case led to the ruling that allowed lawsuits based on suppressed memories to go forward if they were filed within two years of when the memories surfaced.
McClure's lawsuit was put together quickly after that ruling because he began to remember the abuse almost two years ago, Neuberger said.