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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

soundoff (247 Responses)
  1. CYN RUTHERFORD

    FOR SOME REASON THE FIRST PART OF MY COMMENT WAS TAKEN OFF. THE TRUTH MUST HAVE HURT.

    March 17, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  2. jane

    It's very catholic to bone little boys because if you bone little girls, you gonna either have to have the abortion or kill her. two big catholic no-no's.

    March 17, 2011 at 1:56 am |
  3. Ben

    torture them but dont kill them make the suffer.

    March 17, 2011 at 1:55 am |
  4. stwebb

    Where can I sign up for this religion?

    March 17, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  5. Captain Hook

    Shriver me timbers you christians want real truth, go to the nearest Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and you can find the truth you seek. Arrgh!!! We pastaforians promise you scally wags we would never do anything inappropriate with young ones. His noodleness was boiled for your sins.

    March 17, 2011 at 1:28 am |
  6. us

    I am a physician who sees many chronic pain patients. Just recently I had a patient whose pain was not controlled with any intervention we tried. After going through psychological evaluation, we unearthed old scars from this person being abused as a child. Memories of the abuse were manifesting as chronic pain symptoms.

    This reply is for Jordan: don't protect a religion which has been abusing children for years. Patients with abuse histories can hide their pain in many ways, the focus hear should be how to help these people that have been violated.

    March 17, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  7. Marge

    Psychologists have known for years (as has the Catholic Church) that when someone represses their $exuality for years, especially the teen and young adult years, their attractions usually don't age progress at all. Yet they keep on doing this like something is magically going to change that fact.

    March 17, 2011 at 12:56 am |
  8. say what

    cant we blame this on Muslims please! Yeah nothing screwy here with Christianity

    March 17, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  9. CYN RUTHERFORD

    I know after the beatting I had a brain injury because I had headaches for days after.I would love to meet the ol hag...Oh wait shes dead.I was only in 2nd grade.The BULLY

    March 17, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  10. HotAirAce

    No one is persecuting the rcc. The media is only reporting the news. If the rcc wants better press, all they have to do is get better control of their cult members. It is no defense that the rate of abuse by priests is the same as the general population. In fact it shows that the rcc does not have a positive influence on its members. If the believers actually lived their beliefs, abortion in the US would drop by 70%. Time for all believers to stop deflecting attention away from their problems and to stop projecting their sins on everyone else. Clean up the actual problems in your cult and we might consider signing up for your fairy tales. Until then, you are just a bunch of pompous hypocrites.

    March 17, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Jordan

      What benefit do you atheists get out of converting others to your miserable pointless existence? I mean, if there is no greater purpose in life... might as well just get it over with... no need to make everyone else feel as lost and alone as you do, I mean there is no point... right?

      March 17, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • SeanNJ

      @HotAirAce: Sorry, but even then I won't sign up. 🙂

      March 17, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • Marge

      @Jordan, what a sad commentary on you life that if there's not some fairy tale involved it's not worth living. God gave you this existence and that's all you think of it???

      March 17, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • Jordan

      @SeanNJ... If you are in NJ then you are already in he11, no wonder you are a miserable cretin... 😀

      March 17, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Marge

      @Jordan, if you don't treasure your life and the world that God gave us, unless you believe that God made you and God created the world, then you really don't treasure your life or this Universe at all. If you believe God made it all and gave you this world to live in, try at least being grateful for what he made and what he gave you.

      March 17, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Jordan

      @Marge... So you would rather my cometary on my life be about the emptiness? I should rather attack others for believing in something greater than themselves? You are right MARGE!! I would be much happier thinking that all of my hard work, dedication, legacy, charitable donations, tears for victims of catastrophes, etc were all for not, and at the moment I am rotting in the ground, everything I achieved is rotting with me!! That is a much more pleasant thought!! It also serves well to inspire me... that as hard as I may work to better the world around me, as soon as I am gone, it will unravel and matter as much as... well... you do... I am quite happy in my life, what happened in yours that you find it fun to attack others beliefs?

      March 17, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • Marge

      "I would be much happier thinking that all of my hard work, dedication, legacy, charitable donations, tears for victims of catastrophes, etc were all for not..."

      @Jordan – They were all for not if the reason you did them was all for some reward after you die or to prevent some punishment after you die. If you did them because of your love of the Universe and your love for your family and your fellow, then those things were worth a great deal. But that's obviously not why you did those things if you think it's even possible that they could be "all for not".

      March 17, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Jordan: Atheists or Agnostics don't usually try to "convert" completely brain-washed "true believers" as that would be a total waste of time. By rebutting some of their public statements and postings we hope that some people whose minds have still not fallen into the intellectual abyss displayed by most theists might be spared the damage to their thinking abilities before they get suck(er)ed too deeply into a routine of closed minded parroting of ancient fairy tales.

      March 17, 2011 at 1:13 am |
    • Marge

      @Jordan – All I'm saying is try living and loving for living and loving's sake.

      March 17, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • HotAirAce

      I do not believe in god or any supernatural beings. My life is not empty. I try to help my fellow man as much as possible and part of that is to help them shed their childish beliefs that are the cause of so much violence and division in this world.
      If believers have the right to proclaim their absurdities, then non-believers have the right to say "bullish!t". When believers stop saying stupid things in public and stop trying to change laws because of their books-of-stupidity, atheists won't have much to talk about.

      March 17, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • Jordan

      @Marge... Honestly, to try to abate any fighting words, as I feel you are a good person, based on nothing but your articulate manor and heartfelt posts, it is just hard to see people so vehement to dismantle your beliefs! If you do not understand that so be it! I am not a missionary, I am not a prophet, I have not died and been resurrected nor have I met my God... but... I believe in good people (Atheist or Christian)! The way I view my God is forgiving! Even those who forsake him, and try to make others do the same are not bound for damnation or purgatory. I just wish they could show my beliefs similar respect. I apologize for my harsh tone.

      March 17, 2011 at 1:20 am |
    • Jordan

      @HotAirAce and PraiseTheLard... My comment is being moderated so I will give you a watered down version in case it doesn't make it. I apologize for my judgments of you... I don't think you are doomed for your beliefs either, I think it is all part of the diversity of life. Sorry if I offend.

      March 17, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • Marge

      @Jordan – I appreciate your words. We all have different histories. Some grew up in secular households with bad parenting, and bad examples, taught dishonesty and irresponsibility and later in life find solace in faith. Some grew up in Christian households with bad parenting and bad examples, taught fear and guilt and shame, and later find solace in a different faith, perhaps even a faith that there is no God and that life is very much worth living anyway. The emotions and reactions of either can be extreme.

      March 17, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  11. Frederica

    Prayers for victims and for the innocent people in Catholic church. People must be trained everywhere to be transparent and to speak up the truth, no matter what the cost.

    March 17, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  12. Jordan

    Suppressed memories... for 47 years... sounds to me like a frivolous lawsuit, some person who sees a way to make a quick buck in a bad economy. Thanks to the efforts of other scammers, public opinion is already against religion... This is low hanging fruit to them.... "I realized 3 years ago that I was abused 40 years ago – oh oh oh!!! My brother was too!!! (he also suppressed his memories...) can I have my check now?"

    March 17, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  13. AK

    I'm not going to rush to judgment – grand juries indict in almost every case. I think it's important to not assume these particular priests are guilty just because others have been pedophiles. Wait for the trial.

    March 17, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • K.C.

      AK, It's not even so much a comment on these priests in particular–it's the fact that several priests are convicted, admitted peophiles who were sheltered by higher-ups. It's the fact of this very particular sickness in people who are in a position to be looked up to and admired by innocent children. This is what sickens people time and time again, and causes them to rage every time these stories come out. Also, for all those who are sure that this man is lying about the abuse, you don't really know.

      March 17, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  14. K.C.

    This is so disgusting. These men are sick. If you look at statistics, the vast majority of pedophiles are men,
    yet the Catholic Church would never think of allowing women to be priests–even with the shortage of priests–never a woman!
    Argue about it if you wish, but in general, women are better listeners, more nurturing, much less likely to hurt a child. Can they be Catholic priests–oh never!

    March 17, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  15. rosemarie robson

    i pity the poor children that were victims of this awful abuse, they suffered every day of their lives. Revenge is mine saith the LORD GOD. He will pour out his wrath on those preador priests and those who covered up for them. The people that attend Catholic churches will be the ones footing the attorney fee for these monsters. I would not give one cent to the collection plate if i attended service on Sundays in the catholic church, why defend them, they don't deserve it, to make someone elses life miserable for the rest of those poor innocent childrens life. Please don't support the church they in turn will bail out these devil priests.

    March 17, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  16. Canuk_eh!

    These men are evil. The people who cover for these animals are evil, and I'm sure that The Vatican knew what was going on. May they rot in prison before they rot in hell.

    March 17, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Jordan

      These "victims" are scammers!! Seriously!! Just because someone says it is so, does not make it so! By that logic I could very well claim YOU molested me...

      March 17, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Jordan: you state: "Just because someone says it is so, does not make it so!"

      Does this mean that you'll no longer follow the fairly tales in the bible? Just because it's written there (on account of someone having said it is so), does not make it so...

      March 17, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  17. joesmith

    the sheep of this flock, still follow as stupidly as do the four legged variety..so sad, we humans, can't stand up for anything, thus we fall for everything..

    March 16, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  18. storyteller

    I wonder if the Pope has ever touched a young child?

    March 16, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • storyteller

      or does becoming the Pope just mean you get the pick of the crop?

      March 17, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • willowspring

      How disgusting. It's horrible that the priests abuse these children. But to have people like you smear all other priests and now the Pope is really low. It has hurt the church and deeply hurt the faithful and it beyond our understanding that this has happened at all, let alone having continued for so long and been so widespread. Everyone that stands guilty of these crimes needs to be punished along with those that let it continue and covered it up.

      March 17, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  19. cnn=re-re

    That's cool. Every comment is awaiting moderation.

    March 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  20. Matt Pajor

    I am a Roman Catholic and I believe the Church leadership should be held to a higher standard. Shame on those that committed these disgusting crimes...

    March 16, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • McJesus

      Thay are so-called representatives of a god. So technically there is no higher standard. Or.. maybe we should rethink this whole benevolent loving god notion and realize that catholic clergy are just a branch of NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association).

      March 17, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Jordan

      I think the accusations should be held to higher scrutiny! The church is already the villain in the eyes of the media, they are held to an impossible standard. At the first sign of blood in the water sharks (atheists) and LEACHES (scammers) come out of the woodwork.

      March 17, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Jordan: so in your mind, all of these priests are completely innocent and all the victims are scammers? There had to have been a conspiracy of silence since it's doubtful that many of these actions could have been kept completely secret.

      Since there's no Commandment stating that one should not molest young children, do you suppose that they thought they had divine permission to proceed?

      March 17, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • Bernard

      No offense to any Catholics but I think the church leadership needed a higher standard about 1600 years ago. The Orthodox and Protestant Churches didn't arrive just for fun, you know.

      March 17, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • jim

      maybe we should withdraw the catholic church's tax exempt status til they start taking this seriously? might have an effect. what do you think?

      March 17, 2011 at 2:07 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Jim: why only the Catholic church? Why not the thousands of other Palaces of Ignorant Indoctrination?

      March 17, 2011 at 2:12 am |
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About this blog

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.