- Peter Leo Gerety was accused of sexually abusing the 5 year old victim three or four times
- Gerety allegedly told the victim that the abuse was “what God asked and wanted of me”.
- The case was brought to court after the victim refused a church settlement for $ 5,000
A US $ 50 million lawsuit for alleged sexual abuse of a 5-year-old girl was filed about three or four times in 1976 against a former Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.
Archbishop Peter Leo Gerety, who died in 2016 at the age of 104, was accused of bringing the girl to his bedroom in the rectory of the Basilica of the Holy Duke and molesting her while her mother worked as a seamstress for the local newspaper The Bergen Record reported first.
The 49-year-old victim, who lives in Pennsylvania, said Gerety had often praised her for being “such a smart and beautiful young girl,” and she felt helpless when he molested her.
“As a child, I mistakenly thought that God specifically sent my mother and family (Gerety) to save us and help us get food,” the woman wrote in a notarized affidavit. She explained, “I felt I had no choice but to do what (Gerety) ordered.”
According to the woman, Gerety told her that the indecent acts were “what God asked and wanted me to do”. Gerety also warned the victim to keep the attacks a secret, as this would harm her mother if exposed.
The abuse stopped when she refused to be left with Gerety and an aunt offered to watch over her in place of the archbishop. When she was 13 years old, she revealed the ordeal to her older sister after years of being silent.
The victim wrote in the affidavit that Gerety’s abuse “disgusted and rejected her by men” and that it led to suicidal thoughts in her 20s and “fits of anger” that have continued to this day. She also said she expected “counseling, therapy, and other treatment as a result of this sexual abuse for the rest of my life”.
The lawsuit, citing the Archdiocese of Newark and Gerety’s estate as defendants, was brought before the Essex County Supreme Court in March after the victim turned down a $ 5,000 settlement offer from the New Jersey Independent Victims Compensation Program, reported NJ.com.
The out-of-court investigation and resolution agency created by the Catholic Church for abuse claims said it could not find any evidence to conduct an independent review of the victim’s claims.
John Baldante, the woman’s attorney, said the case went to court because the board’s offer was “grotesquely low”.
“They hid under the mantle that they could not finally confirm the guilt of Bishop Gerety,” said Baldante. “Your default is just denial, denial, denial.”
Sean Quinn, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, declined to comment on the lawsuit but said the archdiocese will work with authorities to resolve the allegations.