MAYS LANDING — A Superior Court judge decided Wednesday that a civil case alleging a priest took a boy from Pennsylvania to New Jersey three times to molest him in the 1970s can be heard in Atlantic County, denying the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s motion to dismiss the case over jurisdiction.
The suit alleges a student in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary started molesting a 7-year-old during the summer of 1972 while on vacation in Brigantine, and the abuse continued for several years, including during a trip to Gloucester City, Camden County, according to court documents. The alleged victim is identified only as “John Doe.”
A spokesperson for the archdiocese could not be reached Saturday.
Doe alleges the archdiocese and the seminary the student attended were negligent and failed to investigate his claims of abuse and check the priest’s background. The priest Doe alleges abused him died in 2010.
In her decision, Judge Christine Smith noted that the archdiocese owned property in Ventnor during the time of the alleged abuse, and the seminary currently partners with the Diocese of Trenton.
According to court filings, the archdiocese argued the court does not have jurisdiction because the priest was “acting outside the scope of his employment” and that the correct jurisdiction would be Pennsylvania.
The abuse escalated after the man was ordained and assigned to St. Anne’s parish in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, the suit alleges. The man “threatened to retaliate against his family” if the boy said anything since the church was providing the boy’s family “with significant charity.” He was also worried about his younger brother, the suit states.
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In 1974, the boy reported the abuse to St. Anne’s pastor, but it wasn’t until two years later that a nun intervened on the boy’s behalf, according to the suit, and the priest was transferred to Chester County. The abuse ended when Doe was 12, according to the suit.
Doe went to St. Anne’s in 2014 and experienced “perceptual distortions” and “felt very small and scared,” according to the suit. He began having “nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts of abuse.”
After seeing a therapist in spring 2015, Doe “acknowledged that he had been sexually abused,” according to the suit.
The next court date in the case, to discuss the statute of limitations, is set for May 2.