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A former altar boy has filed a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Catholic Church in New Jersey, claiming that he was molested by a priest when he was a child.
The complaint (PDF) was filed earlier this week by Justin Hoffman in New Jersey Superior Court, pursuing damages against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, and Holy Trinity Parish, the successor to St. James Parish.
Hoffman, of Philadelphia, indicates he served as an altar boy from 1996 to 2001, under Brendan V. Sullivan, a deceased Roman Catholic priest who served in St. James Parish from 1987 until he retired in 2004. The priest was also recently named as having faced “credible” allegations of sexual abuse in a list of such individuals released in February by the Catholic Church in New Jersey.
The lawsuit indicates that Sullivan regularly sexually abused Hoffman from 1996 to 2001, and the diocese knew or should have known the priest was sexually molesting alter boys, yet did nothing to stop him until 2010, when he was removed from the priesthood..
“During his tenure as a priest for the Diocese of Camden, Sullivan was a serial molester and sexual abuser of children, including Plaintiff,” the lawsuit states. “Sullivan’s abuse of Plaintiff gradually increased in frequency and intensity over time and included but was not limited to indecent exposure of himself to Plaintiff, inappropriate fondling, groping, and touching plaintiff, and removing Plaintiff’s clothes and undergarments.”
Sullivan’s removal came after another victim stepped forward to complain about abuse that occurred as far back as 1981. The lawsuit indicates Sullivan acknowledged that case of abuse prior to his death.
The lawsuit comes amid renewed attention to sex abuse allegations against Catholic church priests, and problems that many now say was a covered-up for decades.
Lists such as the one that included Sullivan began to come out several months after an August 2018 grand jury report highlighted cases involving at least 90 Catholic priests accused of sex abuse in the Pittsburgh area, involving allegations and cover-ups that spanned decades.
That report indicated the Catholic Church of Pennsylvania covered up abuse involving priests who abused more than 1,000 victims, mostly children, over the course of 70 years. After 90 of those priests were identified, it sparked investigations by the Justice Department and states’ attorneys general nationwide.
In February, the Vatican held a four-day conference on addressing problems of sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. This was followed by an edict from the Pope in April which calls for all sex abuse claims against Vatican personnel to be reported to police immediately. While it only legally applies to the Vatican, church officials say the edict is meant to be a guide for the entire church apparatus.
The spotlight on the issue has renewed some efforts to level sex abuse litigation against the Church. In January, an attorney representing a number of victims announced that the Catholic Church had agreed to settle at least five sexual abuse lawsuits brought against yet another former priest in New Jersey.