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Former Owego Priest Named In Suit

Dec 27, 2002

Four former altar boys have filed suit in Tioga County, N.Y., Court against their former church, alleging that they were sexually abused by two ordained Roman Catholic priests that were connected to the church.

The four civil lawsuits have been filed against the Holy See which is the state of Vatican City the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, N.Y.; Matthew H. Clark, the archbishop of Rochester; and St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church of Owego.

All four of the individuals who have filed the lawsuits are alleging that they were sexually abused by the Rev. Albert Cason between 1974 and 1977 or 1978.

Cason, who is named as a co-defendant in one of the suits, was a co-pastor at St. Patrick's Church from 1973 to 1985.

One of the individuals who have filed suit against the church has also claimed that he was sexually abused in 1979 by Robert Hammond, an ordained Roman Catholic priest who was director of the Catholic youth summer program at St. Patrick's Church at that time.

The four individuals the names of which were not included in the lawsuits because they were minors at the time that the incidents allegedly occurred are all being represented by Binghamton, N.Y., attorney Ronald Benjamin.
Benjamin told The Review this week that he has filed between eight and nine lawsuits in this case, and all but two of the suits involve Cason.
Benjamin stated that he has filed lawsuits in this case in Monroe County, N.Y., court; Broome County, N.Y., court; and U.S. District Court in New York.

"More lawsuits are going to be filed," he said.
The individuals who have filed suit in Tioga County, N.Y., are seeking a combined $106 million in compensatory and exemplary damages from the Holy See, St. Patrick's Church, Cason, the Diocese of Rochester and Archbishop Clark.
The diocese removed Cason from the ministry in 1985 for sexual misconduct, but no criminal charges were filed.

Attempts by The Review to contact the communications department of the Diocese of Rochester regarding Hammond's status and for comments on the lawsuits were unsuccessful.
The lawsuits all alleged that prior to being transferred to St. Patrick's Church, the Holy See, the Diocese of Rochester and Bishop Clark were all aware that Cason and Hammond "engaged in inappropriate criminal sexual behavior."
The transferring of Cason to St. Patrick's Church and the retaining of Hammond was "part and parcel of a conspiracy by the defendants and related entities to intentionally, recklessly and negligently conceal the criminal conduct of its agents and employees including, but not limited to the failing to report criminal conduct of its agents and/or servants, including priests, allowing and aiding them to evade criminal and/or civil prosecution and liability, as well as concealing (the) defendant's own culpability for the conduct contained(within the lawsuits)," the suits allege.

The individuals who were preteens or early teen-agers at the time of the alleged incidents claim in their lawsuits that the abuse by Cason and Hammond led them to leave the church and to abuse alcohol and drugs.

While the individuals are looking for monetary damages in these cases, Benjamin noted that his clients are seeking institutional reforms from the church that are meaningful.

"The Vatican needs to be held accountable," said Benjamin. He noted that while there has been some reform started, that reform has been "squashed" by the Vatican.

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