Delaware man sues Philadelphia Archdiocese, alleging abuse by priest

Philip Gaughan, with his wife, Michelle, alleges in a lawsuit that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia engaged in fraud, concealment, and conspiracy to endanger children.
Philip Gaughan, with his wife, Michelle, alleges in a lawsuit that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia engaged in fraud, concealment, and conspiracy to endanger children.
Posted: March 08, 2011

A Delaware man on Monday became the latest alleged abuse victim to sue the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, contending that its leaders failed to stop a Northeast Philadelphia pastor from molesting him when he was a teen, and that its employees were unresponsive when he sought their help as an adult.

Philip Gaughan, 31, said he came forward to spare others from being victims.

"I don't want anybody to have to go through what I've had to go through," Gaughan said, flanked by his wife, father, and lawyers at a news conference outside City Hall. "No child should have to go through this ever again."

Gaughan's lawsuit says the Rev. John E. Gillespie molested him between 1994 and 1997, when Gaughan was a sacristan and Gillespie was pastor at Our Lady of Calvary Church along Knights Road.

According to the 2005 grand-jury report on sexually abusive clergy in the archdiocese, Gillespie had "admitted molesting several boys over his many years as a priest." He died in 2008.

Gaughan said that he contacted the archdiocese victim-assistance program last fall, but that it was slow to help.

He said he had two 10-minute phone conversations about treatment, but after that, "I never heard back."

The archdiocese declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The suit names as defendants Gillespie; Msgr. William Lynn, who as secretary for clergy was responsible for assigning diocesan priests; Cardinals Anthony Bevilacqua and Justin Rigali; and two victim-assistance staffers. It alleges that they engaged in fraud, concealment, and conspiracy to endanger children, and seeks more than $50,000 in damages.

Last month, as a result of a second grand-jury report, Lynn became the first ranking church official nationwide charged with endangerment stemming from his role in reassigning and protecting abusive priests. Three other area priests and a former schoolteacher were charged with molesting minors.

Gaughan's complaint mirrors one filed by the same lawyers for an unidentified man last month, after the grand-jury report vilified the archdiocese's recent attempts at reform.

The lawyers, Marci Hamilton and Dan Monahan, say more such suits are looming. Each suit, they said, will echo an assertion by the grand jury: Church leaders were at times more concerned with protecting priests or the archdiocese than with protecting children.

According to the 2005 report, Gillespie admitted in 1994 that he had molested boys but was allowed to keep his position as pastor for six years after that.

Gaughan said he is now an overprotective father to a 7-year-old boy he rarely lets out of his sight.

Gaughan's father, also named Philip, said Gillespie had been a family friend for 40 years.

His hope, the elder Gaughan said, is "that Phil's courage in coming out may help one other individual, may help one family suspecting that their son or daughter is dealing with an issue - not to pry, not to question, but to be there to listen."


Contact staff writer John P. Martin at 215-854-4774 or jmartin@phillynews.com.

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