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  Home :: 2006 December :: Diocese target of sex abuse

Diocese target of sex abuse

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre is about to come face to face with its accusers in a sexual abuse case for the first time next week, as two people who were molested by an East Meadow youth minister sue him and the church for $150 million.

The two plaintiffs, whom Newsday is not naming because they were victims of sexual abuse, said in court papers that leaders at St.Raphael Roman Catholic Church and the diocese turned a blind eye for three years as Matthew Maiello, then of Lynbrook, raped and sodomized them. Maiello, who pleaded guilty to rape and sodomy of the two plaintiffs and two others in 2003, served just more than 2 years in prison for his crimes. He now lives in upstate Gilboa.
"There were reports from people in the youth groups that Maiello was kissing young girls, touching them, seeing them on a one-on-one basis,"said Michael Dowd of Manhattan, a lawyer representing the victims."There was a host of different conduct that was completely ignored."

Diocese spokesman Sean Dolan would not comment, saying it is the diocese's policy not to discuss pending lawsuits.

The trial, set to begin today with jury selection before State Supreme Court Justice R. Bruce Cozzens Jr. in Mineola, promises to bring Bishop William Murphy to the stand. Murphy was appointed after the abuse byMaiello ended, but Dowd says he should be held accountable now as the leader of the church.

In addition to calling both plaintiffs, a woman and a man who were both15 when the abuse started in 1999, Dowd said he will present videosthat Maiello took of his clients having sex with each other and with him.

"I can't think of a sex act that he didn't direct these kids to perform," Dowd said.

People who have followed the clergy sex abuse scandal say the Maiellocivil suit is important because it is one of the few church sex abuse lawsuits that falls within the statute of limitations. Other potential suits lost their wind earlier this year when the state's highest court refused to allow two closely watched sex abuse lawsuits to proceed against the Roman Catholic dioceses of Brooklyn and Syracuse.

"They weren't held accountable criminally, so now they're being held accountable civilly," said Laura Ahearn, of Parents for Megan's Law, aStony Brook advocacy group.

Indeed, at the time Maiello was sentenced, his victims said they believed his punishment was too lenient. Prosecutors said then Maiellowas punished as severely as possible.

According to the lawsuit, Maiello met the female plaintiff in the fall of 1998 when he was working as youth minister at the church. Over time,the lawsuit says, Maiello gained the girl's trust, ingratiating himself with her family and spending time alone with her. Then, in the spring of 1999, Maiello began having sex with her in his office, in the church choir room, in the principal's office and in the parish elementary school.

Church members noticed right away Maiello and the girl had an inappropriately close relationship, and in December 1999, a group of parents went so far as to call a meeting with the Rev. Thomas Haggertyto discuss Maiello's relationship with the girl, the lawsuit said.Still, nothing was done, the lawsuit says.

Then, beginning in the spring of 2000, Maiello brought the second plaintiff, a boy, into the picture, the lawsuit said. He forced the girl and boy to have sex with each other and had sex with them both together and separately, the lawsuit says.

Dowd says there were plenty of opportunities for Haggerty and other church officials to intervene, but they never did.

"There were people who warned the church that Maiello's conduct was inappropriate, suspicious and warranting intervention, and yet no one ever did anything," Dowd said.

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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia