Man claims monk sexually abused him more than 100 times as a kid

LINDEN — A New Jersey man who attended the now-shuttered St. Elizabeth of Hungary School more than four decades ago has anonymously stepped forward and accused a Benedictine monk of abusing him on more than 100 occasions as a teenager.

In a lawsuit filed Friday morning, a plaintiff identified as John Doe III alleges he was sexually abused on numerous occasions by the Rev. Timothy Brennan between 1968 and 1971 while a student at St. Elizabeth’s School.

Doe also accused St. Elizabeth’s School, the Archdiocese of Newark and the Order of Saint Benedict, which operates St. Mary’s Abbey and Delbarton School, of misconduct, negligence, fraudulent concealment and other charges over their alleged failure to protect him from Brennan’s abuse. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, referred comment on Brennan to the Order of Saint Benedict. Anthony Cicatiello, a spokesman for St. Mary’s Abbey, the Benedictine monastic community in Morristown which operates the Delbarton School, declined comment due to active litigation involving Brennan.

Multiple calls placed to the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete in Missouri, where Brennan is currently believed to reside, were never returned.

Brennan, who was convicted in 1987 of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy at Delbarton School, has also been accused in other civil lawsuits of abusing other students during his decades as a teacher, monk and priest.

Doe’s attorney, Gregory Gianforcaro, told NJ Advance Media he’s represented six clients who claim abuse by Brennan, along with several former Delbarton students who allege abuse by Benedictine monks from St. Mary’s Abbey.

Gianforcaro’s former and current clients have similarly filed their lawsuits as John Doe or used only their initials in order to preserve their anonymity.

One of the issues Gianforcaro faces in cases such as these is the statute of limitations, which may have lapsed decades ago. Though present laws “make it challenging,” he said, it’s still possible to bring a suit if you’re able to establish the plaintiff was unaware of the connection between his injuries and the abuse suffered.

More than three years of abuse

In several interviews, Doe told NJ Advance Media he was an altar boy and student at St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Linden from 1968 to 1971.

Doe, who was between the ages of 11 and 14 at the time, said he never had sex with Brennan but instead Brennan, known by the students as “Brother Tim,” sent him on missions to have sex with other students and then report back to Brennan for his own gratification.

Brennan, he said, often offered to watch pornography with him, would touch his shoulders and his leg, and repeatedly tried to have sex with Doe “before, during and after our sexual conversations.”

Brennan, Doe says, masturbated in the teen’s presence on numerous occasions — often under his robes, during conversations and even while Brennan was parked in his car and Doe leaned next his vehicle.

“The inappropriate touching and interactions occurred at least 100 times during this period,” he said.

Brennan, he said, also hung around the boys’ locker room frequently and touched himself while Doe changed.

“(Brennan) had this thing where he used to corner you and force you to brush against him, he’d crowd you,” Doe said. Often, Doe said, he’d feel an erection as he tried to move past Brennan.

“He had this way of making it a joke if he saw your eyes looking at him weird, so you would drop it and wouldn’t think about it,” Doe said. If “you connected with him. He’d see how far he could go.”

This process, known as grooming by psychologists and other experts, progressed from seventh grade to eighth grade into frank discussions about masturbation and Doe’s sexual experiences with cheerleaders at the school.

“Any other teacher, it would be weird,” Doe said. “But he made his way into the relationship like it was friends talking. He was trying to get information about what I would do for his sexual gratification.”

“He constantly treated me like his favorite student or special friend,” Doe said. “He never held back in our conversations we had, and his conversations with me were always about an explicit sex act or specific interaction with a certain person. He also contently told me that he was fantasizing about sex and that he would use me to complete his orgasm.”

“Do you know what his favorite thing to say to me? I can’t help but think about your eighth grade (penis). Every (expletive) day, like four or five times a week. That was how he talked to me, like it was ‘pass the butter.'”

The fallout

Doe, now in his 60s, said he believes the abuse by Brennan “warped” him as a teenager. Recently, he was also diagnosed with having complex post traumatic stress disorder due to the years of sexual abuse.

“I was like a mini-me (of Brennan),” Doe said. “When he’s telling you it’s okay to do this sh–, with the hormones going crazy, it’s like pouring gas on the flames.”

Doe said he spent 22 years as “a career drug addict” but he’s been in recovery for the past 20 years. Still, he’s had a string of failed relationships, including two divorces, and a daughter for whom he was “never much of a father.”

“I would have been a much better person (without the abuse),” he said. “That’s the bottom line. I definitely wouldn’t have been the same guy.”

Nowadays, Doe said, he has difficulty sleeping and “looking in the mirror.”

“My therapist says I’m like Scarface,” he said. “Anything that gets in my way I destroy it.”

Doe said he initially punted on filing a lawsuit last year, saying he wasn’t ready. Now, he says he has gone through therapy and wants the chance to be heard.

“I want someone to hear me,” he said. “I can’t believe I was put through that at my grammar school.”
Justin Zaremba
July 7, 2017