ALBANY — The parents and a younger sister of two victims of alleged sexual abuse by a Greene County priest railed against the church Tuesday afternoon. Standing on a sidewalk a few hundred feet from the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese offices on North Main Avenue, the family detailed the painful fallout from what they say was decades of abuse.
With their arms around each other’s shoulders, Ivan Morales Sr. and his wife, Carol Morales, spoke about their sons, Ivan Jr. and Martin, and how they say Rev. Jeremiah Nunan slowly lured each of them into a web of abuse that lasted for years.
The Morales’ 20-year-old daughter, Maria, says she was not abused by Nunan, but that when she was at church with her brother Martin, the priest would tell her to wait outside and be “a good little girl” while he took Martin into a nearby room.
“I never put two and two together,” the College of Saint Rose junior said.
Neither brother attended the news conference.
Ivan Morales Jr. could not get time off from his work as a state trooper on short notice, his father said. Martin Morales is currently being held in a Vermont jail, awaiting trial on attempted murder charges. In February 2011, Martin Morales allegedly burst into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment in the small city of Winooski, Vt., wearing a black ski mask and wielding a knife. Police say he beat, choked and tried to kidnap the woman.
Morales’ parents said they did not learn of the alleged abuse of their sons until after Martin’s arrest.
“Martin had never spoke about what Father Nunan did to him,” Carol Morales said. “Father Nunan tormented him for years. He is a monster. What happened with our son, the way he turned out, would not have happened if (Nunan) had not abused him. Our son was trapped in a mental prison for so many years. Now his mind is free … but he is incarcerated.”
News of the alleged abuse became public after a civil suit was filed on Martin Morales’ behalf on March 29 against the diocese, Nunan and Sacred Heart Church in Cairo, where the abuse allegedly took place.
On April 14, the diocese placed Nunan, 74, on administrative leave from Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Knock Mission in East Durham, where Nunan also serves.
The tales of the alleged abuse began to unfold in March 2011 after Ivan Morales Sr. took over Martin Morales’ finances when his son was jailed after his arraignment. Ivan Morales Sr. soon found receipts for thousands of dollars in checks made out to his son from Nunan. When Ivan Morales Sr. confronted Nunan about the money, the priest refused to talk, Ivan Morales Sr. says.
“I asked him what was a priest doing giving my son all this money,” Ivan Morales Sr. said. “He had no answer.”
It wasn’t until Ivan Morales Sr. pressed his son about the money that Martin Morales told his parents about the alleged abuse, which the Moraleses say began when Martin Morales, now 23, was 7 and continued until he was 21.
Nunan gave Martin Morales the money, his parents said, to keep quiet about the abuse. The parents brought copies of five checks to Tuesday’s news conference. Each one was from Nunan’s bank account, made out to either Martin Morales or cash and for between $500 and $3,000. The checks were issued between February 2010 and January 2011.
Martin Morales’ parents say that their son met with Nunan just before Morales allegedly broke into his girlfriend’s apartment. They say the meeting influenced their son’s decision-making and emphasized that they believe more than a decade of abuse had irreparably warped their son’s mind. After his brother’s arrest, Ivan Morales Jr., 35, came forward to say that Nunan had abused him as well.
The Morales’ attorney, Michael Reck, said Martin Morales reported the alleged abuse to authorities after speaking with his parents in March 2011. The diocese said it first learned of the allegations in December 2011 from a one-sentence Facebook post by a third party accusing Nunan of abusing Morales. The diocese wrote a letter to the owner of the Facebook account urging the person to elaborate on the allegation, to contact them and to report the alleged abuse to authorities. The diocese never heard back from the person who posted the message, but questioned Nunan about the allegations, said diocese spokesman Ken Goldfarb. Nunan denied abusing Martin Morales.
The diocese contacted Greene County District Attorney Terry Wilhelm on April 4, when the church learned of the lawsuit.
The district attorney’s office has an open investigation into Martin Morales’ allegations of abuse against Nunan — the statute of limitations has expired on the alleged abuse of Ivan Morales Jr. — but the status of the case is unclear. Wilhelm did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
Both Martin and Ivan Morales Jr. say the abuse began when they were each around age 7 and served as altar boys. Their parents say the church should have acted sooner to oust Nunan.
In 2006, Nunan was placed on leave after allegations surfaced that he molested a child in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That case began after a California priest, the Rev. Mark Jaufmann, accused Nunan of abusing him for about three years, starting in 1967, when Jaufmann was 9. An 11-month investigation by the diocese’s Independent Mediation Assistance Program concluded those claims could not be substantiated. Nunan was then restored to the ministry.