PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Eight more priest-abuse lawsuits were filed Tuesday against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and its priests, including a jailed monsignor who now says he was convicted of child endangerment following a sham abuse plea by a defrocked co-defendant.
The civil lawsuits were filed by nine plaintiffs. Two spoke at a news conference, saying the abuse they suffered as children still haunts them and they wanted to go public to help other victims.
Michael McDonnell held up a photo of himself as a sixth-grader at St. Titus School in suburban East Norriton, where he said he was abused by two priests for several years beginning in 1980.
“When I look at that picture I remember what happened … I see a sad face in that photo,” said McDonnell, who was joined by his wife and 6-year-old son. He said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, mental illness and drug addiction because of the abuse.
Andrew Druding said the abuse he suffered when he was 9 at the hands of a priest at St. Timothy School in northeast Philadelphia strained relationships with his family and friends and caused flashbacks that persist 40 years later.
“These things do not define me but they have left me as damaged goods,” he said. “This is my opportunity to an extent to fight back and to start the healing I need to go through.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said their clients decided to come forward when Monsignor William Lynn was convicted and received a three- to six-year prison sentence. Lynn, 61, is the first U.S. church official convicted of endangering children by helping the church move predators from parish to parish.
Lynn’s lawyers now say Philadelphia prosecutors had “compelling reasons to doubt” a guilty plea that underpins his landmark June conviction.
They believe defrocked priest Edward Avery may have pleaded guilty to abusing a boy he’d never met because the 2 1/2- to five-year plea offer was a safer bet than going to trial and facing other accusers.
Avery’s plea to sex-assault and conspiracy charges changed the dynamics of Lynn’s trial.
Lynn apologized on the witness stand, saying an earlier complaint he had against Avery had “fallen through the cracks.” Jurors convicted him of a single count of endangering Avery’s victim.