Two brothers who grew up on the campus of the Delbarton School where their father was a teacher filed a lawsuit Tuesday, claiming the Catholic school and St. Mary’s Abbey failed to stop alleged sexual abuse.
The brothers, listed in the suit only by the initials “T.C” and “W.C.,” claim they were sexually abused by Rev. Luke Travers, who served as Delbarton headmaster from 1999 to 2007, and was removed last year from an administrative post of a Virginia Catholic school when other allegations of sexual abuse surfaced, and the Rev. Justin Caputo, who until recently was assigned to Notre Dame of Mt. Carmel Parish in Cedar Knolls.
Travers and Caputo are under strict restrictions at St. Mary’s, which means they are accompanied by a fellow priest everywhere they travel and can have no contact with students.
The 19-count lawsuit was announced at a press conference Tuesday held by Phillipsburg attorney Gregory G. Gianforcaro on the lawn of the Morris County Courthouse.
The brothers, William Crane Jr, and Thomas Crane, both spoke at the news conference.
The suit alleges that between 1977 and 1980, Caputo sexually abused both brothers, and that in 1980, Travers sexually assaulted Thomas Crane.
“This is not a minimal boundary issue,” Bill Crane Jr. said.
That phrase was used by the Rev. Giles P. Hayes, abbot of St. Mary’s Abbey, in a January letter to the Delbarton alumni, and again in an address to the campus community.
The scene at Delbarton is much like the atmosphere at Penn State University, Bill Crane Jr. said, where officials are charged with covering up the alleged sexual assaults committed by a football coach.
A photo of the victorious and undefeated 1980 Delbarton football team shows Bill Crane Jr. celebrating with his teammates.
Thomas Crane said he and his brother were part of that “Green Wave” of athletics and camaraderie that permeated the Morris Township campus.
“When some of my fellow alumni read this, they won’t be talking to me anymore,” he said. ‘I wish they would.”
Tom Crane reported his allegations of abuse to the abbey in 2004, and Bill Crane Jr. in 2010.
The Crane brothers are among the plaintiffs who received a $5 million settlement from the Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese in 2005 over allegations of clergy sex abuse centering on James Hanley, a pastor at St. Joseph’s Church in Mendham.
The lawsuit contends that Delbarton and Abbey official, teachers, priests, trustees, deacons, employees, volunteers and directors took no action to stop alleged sexual abuse of students and other priests, even though there was ample evidence the activities were occurring.
The suit further alleges that because the named parties took no action, they willfully ignored known facts, violated their responsibilities to supervise students and protect them from such alleged activities.
The suit also charges that the defendants, "motivated by their desire to prevent knowledge from being disseminated, prevent criminal prosecution and minimize disgrace and scandal, and by their desire to retain the active service if a brother, priest and/or reverend,” protected the rights of the priests over the rights of the alleged victims.
Abbey spokesman Anthony Cicatiello said, "The Abbey does not publicly comment on any pending legal matter. At a later time, we will determine what comment, if any, is appropriate."
Advocate Patrick Marker, of Washington, who said he began investigating allegations of priest sexual abuse in 1989 after he was abused by a priest, said there is a need to break the silence of what happens at abbeys.
Behind that silence, he said, students and other priests are being sexually abused.
At St. Mary’s, he said, allegations of priests sexually abusing students go back to the 1970s, but the allegations were “hidden behind the monastery walls.”
Former priest Kiernan Cole said he was abused by a fellow priest, and the shame and depression that followed led him to attempt suicide. He said the activities behind monastery walls do not match the public perception.
“Sexual victims include students and other priests,” he said.
Marker said it is time to get the parents and others to step forward to end the silence about what is allegedly happening at Delbarton.
In January, he wrote a letter to Gov. Chris Christie, whose children attend Delbarton.
In a Feb. 1 letter, Christie said he asked Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to review Marker’s information and craft a response.