A man filed a lawsuit Monday against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia over sexual abuse he says occurred in the mid-1990s. The suit says archdiocesan officials knew of previous allegations against the Catholic priest accused of molesting the plaintiff while he was a teenager at Our Lady of Calvary parish in Northeast Philadelphia.
Phil Gaughan says he was just 14 years old and very involved in his local parish when the Rev. John Gillespie began abusing him. According to the complaint, the abuse lasted three years. But Gaughan, now 31, kept his secret until October.
“I have a 7-year-old son. And I can’t even imagine him being put in that position with nothing happening and I can’t deal with it alone,” he said.
Gaughan first told his family, including his father, also named Phil Gaughan.
“It’s a shock for a parent because it challenges our faith,” said the elder Gaughan. “And you actually quite wonder if it explains behaviors that we didn’t really understand for a lot of years. And when this finally came out, it also explained a lot of what has happened, the overprotectiveness of his son.”
The lawsuit filed in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas said the younger Gaughan reached out to the archdiocese’s victims’ assistance program. But he said it provided little support. The suit said the program is not designed to help people like Gaughan. Instead, it said, victim’s allegations are sent to diocesan lawyers, and used to protect church interests.
Gillespie died in 2008. The suit names as defendants Cardinal Justin Rigali, former former Archbishop of Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Monsignor William Lynn and two employees who work to assist victims. The archdiocese declined comment on the lawsuit.