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Diocese May Be Facing More Trouble

Dec 31, 2002 | Troy Record A nun counseling a man who was sexually molested, abused and fondled by numerous Albany Roman Catholic Diocese priests has been named in a lawsuit for allegations that she manipulated the sessions to protect and benefit the diocese.

According to the suit filed Monday, Sister Anne Bryan Smollin, a counselor at the Diocesan Counseling for Laity in Albany with a doctorate in psychology, had the man sign a waiver allowing her to share all information exchanged in the sessions, which lasted from March to November, with Bishop Howard Hubbard.

The suit further alleges that Smollin urged the man, who is known only as John Doe No. 2, to leave his wife "because remaining together was detri-mental to the diocese."

"Smollin gave the plaintiff other advice and recommendations that were in the best interests of the Diocese and Hubbard and not in the best interest of the plaintiff," according to the suit.

"The defendant improperly engaged in a pattern of acting as a friend, advocate and also as an adversary in an effort to control and/or manipulate the plaintiff."

Attorney John A. Aretakis said the abuse of the man, now in his 30s, that led to the need for counseling took place in the 1970s. Further legal action for those charges is expected.
"What happened with this person and Sister Smollin is the relationship went from counselor to advocate to helper to friend to 'I don't want to be your friend anymore if you hire a lawyer,'" Aretakis said. "The fact the diocese offers counselors who are on the payroll presents an inherent conflict of interest."

The Albany diocese has removed six priests for abusing children, but since the statute of limitations has run out on all cases that have come to light so far, there are no criminal charges pending.

To date, the diocese has reported paying out $2.3 million to victims. They also have provided counseling to victims.

In a prepared statement, the diocese "categorically" denied the allegations, calling the lawsuit "baseless and utterly without merit."

"The diocese has consistently offered victims counseling which has been professional, appropriate and compassionate," said the statement by Rev. Kenneth J. Doyle, spokesman for the diocese. "Meanwhile, the diocese will continue to offer help in the healing process to any victims, and we will maintain our policy of removing from ministry forever any priest who has ever sexually abused a child."

Specifically, the suit accuses Smollin of being professionally negligent. As an example, Aretakis said she did not take any notes or keep any progress reports on the patient's condition during 100 or so therapy sessions.

Furthermore, the suit alleges that Smollin, at the direction of Hubbard, "used the confidential information provided by the defendant during therapy and counseling for their own ulterior motives and self interests."

During one session, the suit states, Smollin told the client to "be a man and sit down."

According to the suit, it was said "with a lack of due care or the belief and intent of causing the plaintiff further damages or in an effort to continue to manipulate or control the plaintiff," since the plaintiff is a man who was allegedly abused by male priests.

Aretakis said his client suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, depression, has suicidal tendencies and other psychological problems.

"This is a person who got into the clutches of priests back when families thought they were in good hands," said Aretakis, who represents 20 clergy sex abuse victims in the Albany diocese. "This is basically a person in very deep, dark trauma and distress, and the diocese sends him to people that make him worse."
The suit does not stipulate a dollar figure, Aretakis said, but rather it is akin to a medical malpractice lawsuit, which does not require damages to be requested by the plaintiff but mandated by the court.

The diocese has 20 days to answer the suit.



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