By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – A nephew of the late Cardinal John O’Connor of the Archdiocese of New York has filed a lawsuit alleging he was sexually abused by the late Father John M. McDevitt, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, while he was a student at Father Judge High School for Boys in Philadelphia in the early 1990s.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday, June 18, in the superior court of Delaware. According to a statement released by the archdiocesan Office for Communications, the Philadelphia Archdiocese was first contacted by the victim, Richard F. Green, in March via e-mail. Subsequently, a representative of the archdiocesan Victim Assistance Program spoke to Green and offered him assistance. In addition, the Archdiocese immediately notified the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office as well as Father McDevitt’s religious order.
Father McDevitt taught at Father Judge High School from 1989 to 1994 and at Northeast Catholic High School for Boys in Philadelphia from 1968 to 1980.
He died in 1999.
In the statement from the Archdiocese, Karen Becker, director of the archdiocesan Office for Child and Youth Protection, said, “We understand how difficult it may be for inspaniduals to reach out to the Church for help and we recognize the courage that takes.
“We hope that any inspanidual from Father Judge High School or Northeast Catholic High School who has experienced abuse will contact us or call their local authorities for help.”
Prior to his arrival at Father Judge, Father McDevitt taught at the Salesianum School in the Delaware Diocese of Wilmington from 1982 to 1989. He also taught at Salesianum from 1967 to 1968.
The sexual abuse of Green at Father Judge is alleged to have begun when Green was a freshman in Father McDevitt’s religion class.
Aware that Green’s uncle was Cardinal O’Connor, Father McDevitt is alleged to have threatened Green with failing grades in the religion class unless he agreed to be tutored by him.
Knowing that a low grade in religion class would be a hardship on Green and his family, the lawsuit continues, Father McDevitt allegedly coerced Green into complying with the sexual abuse, which included multiple and ongoing sexual acts.
In addition to the Philadelphia Archdiocese, defendants include the Diocese of Wilmington and the Congregation of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, the Salesianum School and Father Judge High School for Boys.
The lawsuit also claims that the defendants had knowledge of Father McDevitt’s “dangerous proclivities” and ongoing abuse of children, including at Salesianum High School, prior to his transfer to Father Judge.
According to the Oblates’ Wilmington-Philadelphia province, the province learned of Green’s allegations from the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Victim Assistance Office in March, and subsequently referred Green to the province’s Office of Victim Assistance.
In a statement, Father James J. Greenfield, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales who is the provincial of the order’s Wilmington-Philadelphia province, expressed his sadness over the allegations. “Sexual abuse is always wrong and causes long-standing pain,” he said. “If these allegations are true, we will work hard to help this victim heal and will apologize for the harm. Justice is essential to healing.”
The Victim Assistance Office of the Philadelphia Archdiocese may be reached at (888) 800-8780 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.