3rd suit filed against Philadelphia archdiocese charging sex abuse
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Francis Finnegan claimed he was sexually abused by a priest in the late 1960s.
March 16th, 2011
05:02 PM ET

3rd suit filed against Philadelphia archdiocese charging sex abuse

By Sarah Hoye, CNN

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (CNN) - Another new sexual abuse lawsuit was filed Wednesday against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Cardinal Justin Rigali and other archdiocese staffers on behalf of a Pennsylvania man, clergy abuse attorneys said.

This latest lawsuit is now the third civil suit filed within the last month. A grand jury report, released in February, not only led to charges against four priests and one parochial school teacher but has opened the floodgates for civil litigation.

In its wake, alleged victims of sexual abuse are suing the archdiocese and other high-ranking church officials because the report states the archdiocese knowingly withheld the identity of predator priests.

These lawsuits were filed in response to new information released in the 2011 grand jury report that involves Monsignor William Lynn, who is facing criminal charges for endangering the welfare of children and having knowledge about perpetrators. Lynn served as the secretary for clergy under the former Philadelphia Archbishop Bevilacqua.

In the case of Francis Finnegan filed Wednesday, Finnegan claimed the Rev. John Kline, who was assigned to St. Francis Xavier Parish and was a longtime teacher at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, sexually abused him while on vacation with the family sometime between 1968 and 1969.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia would not comment on the lawsuit.

During a news conference, Finnegan stood outside the archdiocese building surrounded by his wife, three children and sister, while his parents looked on from a distance.

"It has to stop. They haven't changed anything," Finnegan said. "I stand here because I don't want somebody who is 7 today to be me in 40 years.

"I don't want somebody to continue to be covered up and sheltered by the Catholic church," he said.

Finnegan, now 49, said he repressed the memories of the sexual contact with Kline until roughly three years ago. The memory flashes are like looking at random photos creating a mosaic in his head, he said.

Kline was a regular part of the family, Finnegan said. He ate dinner with them every Thursday for decades, and often traveled with them on vacation. His mother was a secretary for the parish for 40 years, where she and her husband still belong. Kline also co-officiated at Finnegan's wedding.

Finnegan and his older brother, Jack, 58, who now lives in California, were estranged until a few years ago. After they reunited, his brother revealed his own secret, Finnegan said.

"Father John Leo Kline assaulted me, and nine years earlier assaulted my brother," he said. "This man was intimately connected with the family."

Finnegan's suit alleges that the archdiocese "actively concealed their knowledge of Kline's previous offenses, lied to parishioners and created a sham sexual abuse victim assistance program for the archdiocese."

Kline, who was not named in either the 2011 grand jury report or a 2005 grand jury report, retired in 1981 and has since passed away, said Finnegan's attorney, Marci Hamilton. Their suit alleges fraud and conspiracy by the archdiocese.

"This is yet another case in which the archdiocese has let down one of Philadelphia's children," Hamilton said. "This is just an example of what we're learning every day about the harm that this archdiocese has inflicted on not just survivors of abuse, but their entire extended family."

Sometime between 2007 and 2008, Finnegan contacted the Archdiocese Victims Assistance coordinator by phone. He was contacted once by the archdiocese and has not heard from them in four years, he said.

"It's not like they have a personal relationship with me, they don't," he said.

Finnegan's other attorney, Dan Monahan - who also filed the suits on behalf of the previous two alleged victims of sexual abuse - said he would file as many lawsuits as he has to.

"With each week we get more and more phone calls and contacts, not only from Philadelphia, but from across the country," Monahan said. "This has hopefully awakened the people either who lived in the archdiocese or currently live in the archdiocese."

This year's grand jury report is the second one on priests' sexual abuse in Philadelphia, and the first time that a Catholic church leader has been charged criminally for an alleged cover-up.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Courts • Pennsylvania • United States

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.