BOSTON (AP) — A former Massachusetts church parishioner has filed a lawsuit alleging he was sexually abused as a child more than 30 years ago by a Roman Catholic priest who is now an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese. from Detroit.
The plaintiff, identified in court documents as John Doe No. 12, was a 12-year-old parishioner of Saint Mary of the Sacred Heart parish in Lynn in 1989 and 1990 when he was sexually assaulted approximately 25 times by Paul Fitzpatrick Russell , according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Boston.
The Archdiocese of Detroit said in a statement that Russell denied the allegations.
“Abbot. Russell is shocked and saddened by the claims that have been made,” the statement read. “He states that the allegations are completely baseless and that his conscience is perfectly clear.”
Russell was placed in “limited” ministerial charge, and Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron promised “full cooperation.”
The lawsuit also names as defendants the Archbishop of Boston and Russell’s overseer at St. Mary of the Sacred Heart.
“As this is a pending legal matter, we will withhold comment at this time,” a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Boston said in an email.
The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.
Russell, who was ordained in 1987, became priest-secretary to the late Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, joined the Vatican’s diplomatic service where he served as the Church’s top ambassador to Turkey, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, and was appointed auxiliary bishop in Detroit. in May.
The plaintiff met Russell when he volunteered at the parish food bank, according to the lawsuit. Russell invited the boy back to the parish rectory where he “began to groom him” before sexually assaulting him, according to the lawsuit.
The man turned to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism, contemplated suicide, sought mental health treatment and still experiences flashbacks as well as feelings of guilt and shame, documents show. judicial.
He “did not understand that he had been harmed by the conduct of the defendants” until 2021. He wishes to remain anonymous “because he believes it will stigmatize him, affect his personal relationships and hurt him further emotionally”, according to court documents.
The plaintiff, now in his 40s and living outside of Massachusetts, was inspired by others who reported abuse allegations that occurred decades ago, his attorney, Carmen Durso, said.
“The age at which people come forward has gone down, and that’s mainly because they’ve heard about other people coming forward, and that gave them the courage to talk about it,” he said. declared. “It’s not as shameful as before.”
Durso said that to his knowledge, Russell had never faced allegations of abuse.
According to the lawsuit, Boston church officials covered up sexual abuse by priests for decades, conspired to prevent the information from becoming public, and shielded alleged priests from criminal prosecution.
Boston became the epicenter of the Catholic clergy abuse scandal that spread around the world when the Boston Globe published a series of Pultizer Prize-winning stories that showed priests suspected of abuse had been transferred from parish to parish without alerting the parishioners.
The stories served as the basis for the 2015 film “Spotlight,” which won an Oscar for Best Picture.