Priestly Abuse Recounted in Eight New Suits

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Sexual abuse lawsuits are piling up against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia since the child-endangerment conviction of one priest this summer.
     Monsignor William Lynn, 61, is one of the highest-ranking members of the Roman Catholic Church in America to face liability for covering up the sexual abuses of priests under his supervision.
     He is serving six years after a Philadelphia jury convicted him in June of endangering the welfare of children while acting as clergy secretary for the archdiocese, a position that tasked him with investigating sex abuse accusations lodged against clerics.
     Now Lynn is a common defendant in eight lawsuits filed by nine individuals in Philadelphia last week. The complaints also assert claims against former Archdiocese Archbishop Justin Rigali, current Archdiocese Archbishop Charles Chaput, various parochial schools, a parish, and other current or former priests.
     Lynn had been charged alongside other three priests and one parochial school teacher who allegedly assaulted minors under his watch.
     One of the priests, Edward Avery, was defrocked prior to his arrest. Avery took a plea deal under which he will serve up to five years in prison.
     The Rev. James Brennan was tried with Lynn, but the court called for a retrial when the jury could not reach a verdict after 13 days of deliberations and a roughly two-month trial.
     The trial of one-time school teacher Bernard Shero and the Rev. Charles Engelhardt is upcoming.
     Archbishop Chaput arrived at his Philadelphia post well after the scandal broke. Though he is not named in a February 2011 grand jury report that chronicled the child-abuse claims, many see him as the man brought in to clean up the mess left by his predecessors.
     According to one of the lawsuits, “he is joined as a defendant in this [civil] action because he is a party necessary for complete relief.”
     Much of the civil allegations echo the Grand Jury Report, accusing the archdiocese of failing to ensure that its employees not abuse students and other minors in its care.
     One complaint describes how John Schmeer, a priest and guidance counselor with an alleged history of sexually abusing children, repeatedly fondled the genitals of a student.
     A crude joke that Schmeer allegedly told altar boys is recited in another suit filed by M.M. (Courthouse News has abbreviated the plaintiff’s name out of privacy concerns.)
     M.M. says he was a student at St. Titus, a parochial school in suburban Philadelphia, when Schmeer asked, “What is the capital of Thailand?”
     Schmeer allegedly answered his own question, but his “response was, ‘Bangkok,’ accompanied by a fist punch to the groin,” according to the complaint.
     M.M. says Schmeer took him to Mystic Island, N.J., “where he sexually abused him by forcing him to the ground, with the assistance of others, pulled his swim shorts down to expose his buttocks, and placed live crabs on his buttocks to crawl around and pinch him. Schmeer called this ‘the crab treatment.'”
     In October 2004, the archdiocese barred Schmeer “from further public ministry,” according to the complaint. Two months later, Schmeer allegedly agreed to “a supervised life of prayer and penance” at a retirement home for priests.
     M.M. says he was also abused by another St. Titus employee, Francis Trauger. While sleeping in the same bed as Trauger during a trip to the man’s upstate home in 1980, M.M. allegedly “awoke to find defendant Trauger’s (sic) rubbing his penis with his underwear pulled down, and his anus was sore.”

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