Breaking News: Northeast man alleges abuse in suit against archdiocese

A Holmesburg man who alleges he was molested at a Northeast Catholic parish school, was among nine plaintiffs who on Tuesday filed eight lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, its leadership and seven priests.

At a Center City news conference, Vista Street resident Andrew Druding said he was repeatedly raped by Monsignor Francis Feret during the early 1970s at St. Timothy R.C. Church’s school on the 3000 block of Levick St.

Druding said Feret took advantage of him when he was 9 years old and did “unspeakable things” to him.

“I’ve been impacted every day of my life,” he said.

The city’s Roman Catholic archdiocese in May had said Feret was unsuitable for ministry after investigating sexual misconduct allegations against him for more than a year.

Druding said he was outraged that the reason Feret was ruled unsuitable was for “boundary violations,” not for raping him. He said he was later told his case wasn’t even part of the archdiocese’s decision on Feret.

Feret was pastor of St. Adalbert parish in Port Richmond in 2011 when then-Cardinal Justin Rigali put him on leave. Feret’s previous assignments including chaplain for the Provincial House of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth on the 9700 block of Frankford Ave.

Most plaintiffs who file suits in molestation cases do so as either John or Jane Does, but Druding was one of three who made their identities public. Druding and Michael McDonnell spoke at a news conference called by their attorneys, Marci Hamilton, Dan Monahan and Jeff Anderson. The third alleged victim, Michael Dale, was not present Tuesday, nor were the unnamed plaintiffs.

Druding said he began to attend St. Timothy’s and joined its choir in 1970 when he was sent to live with relatives while his parents were divorcing. From 1967 to ’78, while Feret was a counselor at Cardinal Dougherty High School, he lived at St. Timothy’s and served as its choir director, Druding’s lawyers stated in a press release.

Druding, who is now 51, said Feret repeatedly molested him between October 1970 and June 1972. It stopped, he said Tuesday, because he began living with his mother again and no longer attended St. Timothy’s.

In his lawsuit, Druding stated he complained about the abuse to a teacher while he was attending St. Timothy’s. He said he was brought to the school’s “mother superior,” who was not named in the lawsuit, who asked him if he knew what lying was. Druding said he was sent home and Feret continued on at St. Timothy’s.

He didn’t complain again, he said, until 2006, when he saw Feret was officiating at the funeral of slain Philadelphia Police Officer Gary Skerski. He said he was astounded Feret still was a priest.

The attorneys said the suits they filed Tuesday bring their total complaints against the archdiocese to 16 for 17 molestation victims.

Besides Feret, suits were filed against former priest Edward Avery, the Rev. Robert L. Brennan, the Rev. Joseph Gallagher, the Rev. John Mulholland, the Rev. John Schmeer and former priest Francis X. Trauger.

In March, Avery pleaded guilty to molesting a St. Jerome’s parish altar boy in the late 1990s. He had been arrested in early 2011. In his lawsuit, Dale said Avery molested him at a Drexel Hill, Pa., parish in the early 1970s.

Also named in all the lawsuits are the archdiocese, its current leader, Archbishop Charles Chaput, former head Cardinal Justin Rigali and Monsignor William Lynn. Individual parishes also were named in the separate suits. In Druding’s case, St. Timothy’s Catholic School is a defendant.

Lynn, who served as secretary for clergy under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, had investigated Avery for the archdiocese but had arranged for him to live at St. Jerome’s after concluding Avery was guilty of sexual misconduct. Lynn was convicted of one count of child endangerment on June 22 and has been imprisoned ever since while appealing his conviction.

Hamilton said the archdiocese has long conspired to cover up child molestation by its priests.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the archdiocese said it had not received copies of the lawsuits and couldn’t provide any information on them.

“We believe lawsuits are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse,” the statement read. “We will work to assure all victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate assistance.”

Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215–354–3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com