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Ex-Altar Boy Sues Catholic Diocese

Nov 28, 2002 | Rochester Democrat Chronicle

A former altar boy at St. Patrick Church in Owego is suing the church, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester and the Vatican.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Northern District of U.S. District Court, seeks $40 million in damages for the man who claims he was sexually molested by a co-pastor in the 1970s.

The case contains accusations against the Rev. Albert H. Cason, who was co-pastor at St. Patrick in Tioga County in the 1970s and 1980s.

Diocesan officials said Wednesday that they had not been served with the lawsuit and would decline comment. They did encourage people who felt they had been abused by any priest to call the diocese at (585) 328-3228, ext. 215.

Diocesan officials confirmed last spring that Cason was removed from his ministry for sexual misconduct in 1985 and sent for counseling. No criminal charges were filed, but Cason was not allowed to return to the ministry.

Since April of this year, seven other priests in the Rochester diocese have been suspended or removed from active ministry because of credible complaints of child sexual abuse.

The lawsuit charges that the church was “negligent and grossly negligent in the placement, supervision and retention of Cason†and engaged in a conspiracy to protect him. The attorney for the former altar boy, who now lives in California, is Ronald R. Benjamin of Binghamton.

The plaintiff became an altar boy at St. Patrick in 1976, when he was 11 years old, the lawsuit says. Cason was in charge of altar boys at the church.

Shortly after becoming an altar boy, the plaintiff was sexually abused and molested by Cason, the lawsuit says. The abuse continued on a regular basis and included one attempt at forcible rape, it says. The former altar boy also found a videotape that showed Cason in sexual acts with some 10 or so altar boys, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiff repressed the events by becoming more intensely involved in church activities, but nonetheless was unable to do school work or able to concentrate on day-to-day events and began abusing drugs and alcohol, the lawsuit says.

Staff members at St. Patrick “either knew or should have known†about Cason’s misconduct, Benjamin said Tuesday.

Benjamin also charged that the defendants knew that Cason had engaged in criminal sexual behavior before transferring him to St. Patrick in Owego.

As such, the defendants not only concealed misconduct but have “direct liability†for assigning and retaining him, Benjamin said.

Benjamin said he plans to subpoena church documents and expects Bishop Matthew Clark to give a deposition.

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