Diocese Fails to Deliver on Promise of a “Speedy and Transparent Process,” Effectively Re-traumatizing Survivors
(Trenton, NJ) – Today, attorneys from the law firms of Jeff Anderson & Associates and Gianforcaro Law, on behalf of four survivors, filed four (4) lawsuits for childhood sexual abuse against the Diocese of Camden following their July 31, 2020 suspension of the Diocese’s Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP). According to the official IVCP website, a decline in revenue resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has put this Diocese in a position where it “will not be able to continue to borrow the funds necessary to pay the amounts awarded by the Program.”
“These survivors, who summoned all their courage to take the Diocese of Camden up on their word to help them find healing, have been re-traumatized by this self-serving action to suspend the program,” said attorney Greg Gianforcaro. “They were betrayed as children by the Diocese when they were abused as kids by these priests, and now the Diocese is betraying them again. These courageous survivors deserve better and we’re grateful to New Jersey lawmakers for giving them a more direct path to justice through the Child Sexual Abuse Act.”
The cases, brought under the New Jersey Child Sexual Abuse Act / New Jersey Victims’ Rights Bill (S.477), identify three (3) child abusers of the Diocese.
The complaints name as perpetrators:
- Father Kenneth Johnston, accused publicly for the first time, of sexually abusing a minor at St. Anthony’s Church (Waterford Works, NJ) from approximately 1973 to 1974 when the plaintiff was approximately 10 to 11 years old. Johnston, who died in 2018, was a former pastor and high school principal. He was ordained in 1968, served as a priest with the Diocese of Camden between 1971 through 1999 and retired from ministry in 2012.
- Father Gerald Clements, accused of sexually abusing a minor at Camden Catholic High School (Cherry Hill, NJ) in approximately 1977 when the plaintiff was approximately 17 years old. Fr. Clements is included on the Diocese of Camden’s List of Clergy for whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been admitted, substantiated or determined or considered to be credible. In 1993, the Diocese learned that Clements had sexually abused a 12-year-old boy at Most Holy Redeemer Church (Westville Grove, NJ) in the early 1970s. After learning of the allegation, the Church placed Clements on “restricted ministry” in nursing homes. It was not until later that Clements was permanently removed from ministry.
- Father Eldridge Evans, accused of sexually abusing two minors at St. James High School (Carney’s Point, NJ). The sexual abuse of one occurred in approximately 1975, when the plaintiff was 16 to 17 years old and the sexual abuse of the other occurred in approximately 1971 when the plaintiff was approximately 17 years old. Fr. Evans is also included on the Diocese of Camden’s List of Clergy for whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been admitted, substantiated or determined or considered to be credible. Other than listing his prior assignments, the Diocese of Camden has not disclosed any additional information about Evans, who passed away in 2019.
“The survivors bringing suit today are proving they, and all survivors of clergy abuse across the state, are stronger than Diocesan self-interest,” said attorney Jeff Anderson. “These survivors are holding the Diocese accountable and making New Jersey safer for children. It’s time for a reckoning in the Diocese of Camden.”
According to attorney and advocate, Rita Gribko of Jeff Anderson & Associates, programs like the IVCP can be the right path to healing for some survivors, but they are extremely limited in what accountability they can actually provide. “These programs usually limit the disclosure of information,” she said, noting that they rarely live up to the transparency promised by the Dioceses offering them. “Unlike lawsuits, they do not lead to the release of secret documents showing abusers’ histories, what the Diocese knew about the abuse and when they knew it. These programs are designed to keep the secrets of the Diocese secret.”
It is reported that the New Jersey IVCP has paid out $7.5 Million to survivors to-date.