Brothers suing Delbarton School, claiming they were abused by monks

(Daily Record) MORRISTOWN — Twin brothers filed a lawsuit on Tuesday alleging that they were abused by monks when they were children living at the prestigious Delbarton School, where their father was a longtime teacher and an assistant headmaster.

Bill and Tom Crane filed a lawsuit against Delbarton and St. Mary’s Abbey, which runs the school, and then held a press conference at the front of the courthouse where they were accompanied by their attorney and victims’ advocates. The suit alleges that the Rev. Luke Travers, a former headmaster, abused Tom Crane while the Rev. Justin Capato abused both.

Gerard Hanlon, an attorney representing Travers, said on Tuesday that his client “denies any inappropriate conduct.” An attorney representing Capato was not available for comment.

The Cranes said they decided to file a suit after taking their allegations to St. Mary’s officials and not getting satisfaction. Both said they loved Delbarton but have been disappointed with the abbey’s response.

“I was hoping we would get some compassion but that didn’t come,” said Tom Crane, who lives in Washington state.

Bill Crane Jr., who lives in Oregon, referred on Tuesday to St. Mary’s officials recently calling another man’s allegation against Travers a “minor boundary violation.”

“Child sex abuse is not a minor boundary violation; it’s a crime,” he said.

The lawsuit asks for a jury trial and punitive damages, focusing on allegations that Delbarton and St. Mary’s officials didn’t do enough to protect the brothers. Neither Travers nor Capato are named as defendants. The suit does not go into detail about the alleged sexual abuse.

The Cranes, now in their mid-40s, allege in court papers that both were abused by Capato “on numerous occasions” from 1977, when the Cranes were 11, through 1979. Travers allegedly abused Tom Crane in 1980.

Bill Crane Sr., their father, who now lives in Washington state, went to Abbey officials in 2004 with allegations that Capato abused Tom Crane, attorney Greg Gianforcaro said. Tom Crane had not yet come to terms with abuse by Travers, Gianforcaro said, adding that Bill Crane Jr. told his father about his allegations against Capato in 2010, and St. Mary’s officials were notified at that time.

Gianforcaro added that it wasn’t until more recently that abbey officials were told of allegations that Tom Crane also was abused by Travers.

Officials with St. Mary’s, part of the Benedictine order, declined to comment on Tuesday. They said on Monday that both Capato and Travers have had their ministries restricted and are being monitored. Capato was still listed as parochial vicar at Notre Dame of Mount Carmel Church in Hanover in a parish bulletin that came out on Sunday. St. Mary’s officials said Capato is living at the abbey. Travers is living off campus, said his attorney.

St. Mary’s officials recently acknowledged investigating another allegation made last year against Travers. A man told abbey officials that the monk kissed him on the neck and ears in 1990 when he was an 18-year-old student and needed emotional support after his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Abbot Giles Hayes, head of the abbey, has referred to the allegation as a “minor boundary violation.”

The Cranes attended school at St. Joseph’s in Mendham while living at Delbarton and said they were abused there by another priest — parish pastor James Hanley, who was defrocked after admitting he molested at least a dozen children. Hanley publicly has said Bill Crane Jr. was his last victim.

The Cranes were part of a group of more than two dozen people, many of them Hanley victims, receiving a total of $5 million from the Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese in 2005 to settle allegations of clergy sex abuse.

The brothers said they expect the lawsuit against Delbarton to encourage other abuse victims to come forward. They said they anticipate a backlash from people they know from Delbarton.

“A lot of these guys, after today, they’re not going to talk to me,” Tom Crane said.

Bill Crane said he once “bled Delbarton green” and that it was a “total joy” to be part of the campus, but added that going public was an attempt to “reach out to others so they don’t have to suffer the same pain.”

They were joined in the press conference by Kieran Cole, a former monk who said he was a victim of sexual misconduct at St. Mary’s Abbey and treated “like a piece of garbage” when he went to abbey officials with his allegations.

Patrick Marker, a victim’s advocate from Washington state, said he sent a letter to Gov. Chris Christie earlier this year about allegations of misconduct against Travers and other St. Mary’s monks. Christie responded in a Feb. 1 letter saying the information would be reviewed by Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, who would “reply to you directly.”

Marker said he hasn’t heard anything since then. Christie’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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Brothers suing Delbarton School, claiming they were abused by monks
March 20, 2012
Abbott Koloff