A man filed a $150 million lawsuit claiming an assistant pastor abused him as a child and the Syracuse Roman Catholic Diocese chose to remain “willfully blind” to it, his attorney said Wednesday.
In a lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in Oneida County, John S. Zumpano claimed that as a 12-year-old at St. Agnes Church’s grammar school, the Rev. James Quinn began “a pattern of sexually abusing and exploiting (him), which continued unabated throughout (his) school years.”
Diocese officials showed “willful indifference and a reckless or intentional disregard” to the abuse from 1963 to 1970 and took no steps to investigate or stop it, the lawsuit claimed.
“My client is a basket case today. He barely makes it day to day. He is the poster boy for someone who has been abused by a priest. It doesn’t get better it gets worse,” said Zumpano’s attorney, Frank Policelli.
Quinn is now director of vocation promotion for the diocese and in charge of enlisting and counseling young men for the priesthood. He agreed to go on temporary leave until he is exonerated of the charges, the diocese said in a statement.
“Father Quinn flatly and unequivocally denies all the allegations,” said his attorney, Emil Rossi.
In a diocese statement, the clergyman acknowledged knowing Zumpano but described the allegations as “outlandish” and “completely false and utterly baseless.”
“I treasure the priesthood,” Quinn said. “This is very hurtful to me and to those who know me. I know that I will be exonerated.”
Zumpano, now 52, claimed Quinn would get him drunk and then abuse him. Quinn gave him money, jobs, a car and expensive trips to Hawaii and South America to silence him, Zumpano said.
“Quinn wanted to exercise control, isolate him from his family and keep him completely his boy,” said Policelli, who represents five other plaintiffs suing three other Syracuse diocese priests for sexual abuse.
Zumpano said the abuse started when Quinn had him transferred from Mount Carmel, another Catholic grammar school in Utica, to St. Agnes, across the street from Zumpano’s house.
Zumpano said the abuse continued “on an almost daily basis.”
When Zumpano tried to refuse Quinn’s sexual advances, the clergyman roughed him up and forced him to continue, the lawsuit alleged.
After graduating from St. Agnes, Zumpano attended Proctor High School, but Quinn pressured his family to transfer Zumpano to Notre Dame High School, “where he once again would be under Quinn’s control,” the lawsuit said.
During his senior year at Notre Dame, Zumpano was without his consent transferred to a Massachusetts prep school.
“It is submitted that when the diocese learned of Quinn’s exploitation of Zumpano, they ordered Zumpano’s transfer in order to maintain their concealment of Quinn’s abuse,” the lawsuit charged.
The abuse so traumatized Zumpano that he resorted to self-mutilation and several suicide attempts, the lawsuit said.
As a youth, Zumpano was popular, a promising athlete and vice president of his class, his attorney said. Today, he lives alone, receives disability payments, has sleeping and eating disorders and receives psychiatric counseling because he is suicidal.
Because of his emotional and mental problems, Policelli said his client never confronted Quinn or diocese officials.
The lawsuit seeks $100 million in compensatory damages for humiliation, pain, suffering and emotional distress, plus $50 million in punitive damages.
Quinn and the diocese have 20 days to respond to the allegations.