Two women now in their 60s say they were sexually abused by priests at St. Agnes Parish in Rockville Centre when they were around 11 years old, and that one of those priests was John R. McGann, who would go on to be the Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Bishop McGann was a Monsignor and Auxiliary Bishop at the time of the alleged incidents. Also named were Monsignor Edward Melton and Rev. Robert L. Brown, all of whom were assigned to St. Agnes parish in Rockville Centre at the time and all of whom are now deceased.
A janitor at the church, John Hanlon, also was named. His status was not clear.
The two women are being represented by Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney who has represented thousands of clergy abuse victims and who was portrayed in the movie “Spotlight,” which dealt with clergy abuse in Boston.
Mr. Garabedian said the two women decided to come forward when another clergy-abuse victim they knew came forward.
“When a victim comes forward, they empower themselves and other victims and they make the world a safer place for children,” he said.
Robert Hoatson, the president and co-founder of Road to Recovery, a nonprofit group that helps sexual abuse victims, joined Mr. Garabedian at a press conference in Rockville Centre Tuesday. He said he is a clergy abuse victim himself.
The two women, who were not named at the press conference, are offering to settle with the diocese for $10 million each. Mr. Garabedian said he has presented his information to the New York State Attorney General’s office. He added that he is preparing lawsuits in State Supreme Court.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre issued the following response: “We take all allegations seriously. Allegations concerning one victim were brought to our attention by Mr. Garabedian on Friday and those allegations were immediately reported to the Nassau County District Attorney’s office that same day.”
One of the women says she was sexually abused by Bishop McGann on five occasions while the other said she was sexually abused by him once.
The first woman claimed to have been abused by Bishop McGann for a period of five years, by Monsignor Melton for four years and by Rev. Brown for about seven years. One of the women claimed to have been sexually abused by Bishop McGann, Monsignor Melton and Mr. Hanlon.
In late 1967 or early 1968, one of the girls, whose family was closely associated with the church, went to the church and took her friend with her. When they arrived, there were a group of priests in a conference room, who started passing the girls around, Ms. Garabedian said.
“The girls would see each other passed around, from lap, to lap, to lap,” he said. “They were sexually abused on those laps.”
He said the girls were in a room with priests who were drinking alcohol.
“I’d like to say it’s shocking but it’s become par for the course with the Catholic Church,” he said.
“It’s time to take Bishop McGann’s name off of school buildings and foundations and any sort of advertisement the Catholic Church does,” he said.
The now-defunct Mercy High School in Riverhead became Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School in 2002 when the Diocese took it over, although it closed last year. The building, with Bishop McGann’s name still on it, is currently unused.
Mr. Garabedian said he is seeking diocese documents about the priests and any sexual abuse allegations. He referred to these documents as “secret files” and said he was able to get those files in Boston, but that it took three years to do so, as the diocese there kept moving priests to different parishes when allegations where made against them.
Mr. Garabedian said there are no “checks and balances” in the Catholic church when it comes to sexual abuse, and that the priests who were in a position to do something about it were the ones who are sexually abusing children themselves.