Suit Filed Against NJ Diocese Over Priest Accused Of Sexually Abusing Student In 1970s

Kristie Keleshian
February 17, 2020 - 4:58 pm
Catholic church

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PATERSON, N.J. (WCBS 880) -- A priest who taught at the now-closed Don Bosco Technical High School is accused of sexually abusing a student more than 100 times in the 1970s, according to a suit that the Diocese of Paterson is facing.

The suit which was filed Feb. 7 in Superior Court in Bergen County, accuses former priest Sean Rooney of abusing the student beginning when the victim was 13 years old, at the Paterson school as well as several other locations from 1973 to 1975.

The victim is currently a Florida resident and is identified only by his initials in the suit.

Rooney is not on the list of 188 "credibly accused" priests and deacons involving children released in 2019 by New Jersey’s Catholic dioceses.

Rooney was accused in a 2013 lawsuit of sexually abusing a 14-year-old seminary student at a retreat house in Massachusetts and at a seminary in New York according to notes from the website bishop-accountability.org, which tracks allegations against priests.

Rooney is accused of "grooming" the victim and "giving him special treatment” soon after enrolling at the school, the suit claims.

"Shortly after their first meeting, Father Rooney began sexually assaulting and abusing (him)," the suit states. "Plaintiff estimates that he was abused by Father Rooney in excess of 100 times."

Public records revela that Rooney’s last known address is in Tempe, Arizona.

The lawsuit is another allegations filed since Gov. Phil Murphy signed a two-year window on Dec. 1 that expanded the amount of time that victims of sexual assault may file.

The lawsuit also names the Salesians Society and accuses the diocese and the Catholic Church of engaging in a conspiracy to conceal "credible allegations of child sexual abuse against priests," alleging that officials with the Catholic church transferred Rooney and other priests accused of abusing children insead of reporting them to police officials.

In addition, the lawsuit also claims the school and the church failed to alert parishioners that "their children were exposed to a known or suspected child molester."