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Four Men Sue Priests Who They Say Sexually Abused Them As Teens

Oct 2, 2002 | AP

Four men have filed a lawsuit against two priests who they say sexually abused them decades ago as teenagers at a seminary.

The lawsuit, filed last month in state Supreme Court in Westchester County, charges that the abuse occurred between 1968-73 at the former Salesian Junior Seminary in Goshen, 55 miles northwest of New York City.

The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

The suit named several defendants, including the two accused priests, the Rev. George Puello and the Rev. Richard Matikonas, former members of a Roman Catholic order called the Salesians of Saint Don Bosco.

Puello left the Salesian order about 30 years ago, and Matikonas remains a Salesian priest but doesn't have unsupervised access to children, said Seth Taube, a lawyer for the Salesian order and two provincial leaders. He declined to elaborate.

Also named are two current Salesian officials, a Salesian priest who recruited boys for the junior seminary in the 1960s and 1970s, and the order itself, which has provincial offices in New Rochelle.

The plaintiffs charge that two priests sought them out in their dormitory beds at night and performed sexual acts on them against their will.

"I wanted to be a priest, and I put my faith and trust in these men to teach me how to be a priest," one of the plaintiffs, Michael Egan, told the Times Herald-Record of Middletown.

Egan, now 47 and living in Wallkill, entered the junior seminary at age 14 and stayed for two years. He said he kept quiet about the abuse for years.

In April, Egan decided to tell his old classmates after reading a news report about alleged abuse at a Salesian school in Florida. The friends learned they had each experienced similar abuse.

Taube expressed sympathy for the men but said the statute of limitations expired long ago. "We believe these claims are time-barred and therefore look to the courts to dismiss this suit."

Marcia Goffin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said, "Our position is that our clients were afraid to come forward and were damaged in so many ways."

She said her clients were seeking new safeguards "to ensure that this doesn't happen again."

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