- (Photo: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)
The president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in the U.S., William A. Donohue, has expressed irritation over yet another sex abuse allegation directed against a priest, this time coming from a man in Rhode Island who says he was reminded of the abuse due to news reports on former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.
It would not have to take the Penn State scandal to help escalate public outrage about sex abuse in general. But it was the story of Sandusky, charged with allegedly abusing several young boys over a 15-year period, that reminded a Rhode Island resident, James Meunier, of a sexual assault he was allegedly subjected to in the past by a Catholic priest.
Meunier, of Pawtucket, R.I., said during a news conference last week that he was sexually abused by Raymond Richard, also known as Brother Regis, while attending the Sacred Heart Boarding School in Sharon, Mass.
Meunier, 75, said the abuse began in school showers that the priest made him clean when was in the 7th grade, reported WPRI. The alleged assault happened in the 1950s. The priest is now deceased and the school closed, which is causing some controversy, as church officials are suggesting it is not fair to accuse a dead person who cannot defend himself against such accusations.
The Catholic League's president is skeptical of the Meunier's claim, pointing to various facts that supposedly discredit the alleged victim, such as the alleged assault taking place half-a-century ago.
"No segment of the population has been inundated with more bogus lawsuits than Catholic priests. This latest one out of Rhode Island is hard to top," Donohue said in a statement published on the organization's website last week.
Meunier reportedly said that the much publicized Penn State scandal has intensified his pain. The man claims he began remembering the molestation in 2008 after watching a television report about sexual abuse, WPRI reported. He also reportedly claims the abuse has caused him great distress, which he is still suffering. The man claims he is in need of counseling and that he was married seven times and had 82 jobs and does not trust people, suggesting these facts might be results of abuse.
The man reportedly filed a lawsuit in Norfolk Superior Court in Massachusetts in March and is being represented by Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian from Garabedian Law, a firm specializing in sexual abuse cases and boasting of many won cases involving priests.
"In 2003, Mitchell Garabedian, representing 120 victims and survivors of over 40 different priests, along with lawyers representing other victims and survivors of abuse, obtained an $85,000,000 settlement with the Archdiocese of Boston," reads a note on the law firm's website.
Donohue has criticized the alleged abuse victims in several instances, calling some of them "Church-haters."
Many alleged sex abuse victims have united in an organization called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which entered the spotlight recently after it filed a lawsuit against Pope Benedict XVI and some high-level Vatican officials in September.
Donohue has been critical of the organization, as he expressed in an August video statement and other press releases.
"Over the past decade, Catholics have been rocked by revelations of priestly abuse. Bad judgments were made; cover-ups took place; and inexcusable conduct was tolerated," Donohue wrote in a July report. "Much of the criticism has been constructive, and to that extent, welcomed. But some has been malicious."
Pope Benedict XVI referenced the sexual scandal in a Nov. 26 address directed at U.S. victims.
"I wish to acknowledge personally the suffering inflicted on the victims and the honest efforts made to ensure both the safety of our children and to deal appropriately and transparently with allegations as they arise," the pontiff said.
He added, "It is my hope that the Church's conscientious efforts to confront this reality will help the broader community to recognize the causes, true extent and devastating consequences of sexual abuse, and to respond effectively to this scourge which affects every level of society. By the same token, just as the church is rightly held to exacting standards in this regard, all other institutions, without exception, should be held to the same standards."