Suit claims Delbarton monks abused teens

(Observer-Tribune) MENDHAM TWP. ‑ Two former residents who were sexually abused by a former priest at St. Joseph Church when they were youths, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday claiming they were also victimized by two monks at the Delbarton School in Morris Township in the 1970s.

The suit was filed in Superior Court in Morristown by attorney Gregory Gianforcaro of Phillipsburg on behalf of William and Thomas Crane, twins who are now 46 and living on the west coast.

An advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse also said he has spoken with six other former students who claim they also were victimized by the two monks, the Rev. Justin Capato and the Rev. Luke Travers, a former headmaster.

A spokesman for St. Mary’s Abbey, which runs Delbarton, said an internal review board is investigating claims against Travers and Capato.

A former Delbarton headmaster from 1999 to 2007, Travers is living at the abbey where he cannot have contact with people under 21 and his travel has been restricted until the claims are resolved.

Capato has been assigned to Notre Dame of Mount Carmel Church in Cedar Knolls. A voice mail at the church from Capato said only that he will be away from the parish “for an extended period of time.”

“Both are under restrictions and are constantly monitored,” said the abbey spokesman,” Anthony Cicatiello,

Cicatiello said the abbey’s review has been put on hold pending the completion of a review of the allegations by the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.
Cicatiello said the panel will review one complaint filed against Travers in January 2011 and one filed in January 2004 against Capato.

“That’s all we know of,” Cicatiello said. “The process is going forward on both.”

Teen Victims

The suit claims the Cranes were in their early teens when they were both molested. Capato and Travers are identified in the suit but not named as defendants. Instead, the suit names as defendants the Delbarton School and St. Mary’s Abby, which runs the prestigious grades 7-12 Catholic prep school in Morris Township.

“Capato and Travers are not named as defendants because we are looking to hold responsible the institution that employed them,” Gianforcaro said. “In the end, it’s the institution that has to protect the children. We wanted the focus to be clear.”

The Crane brothers lived at Delbarton at the time of the alleged abuse. Their father, William Sr., taught at Delbarton for 42 years.

Ginaforcaro said Thomas Crane first told his father in 2004 of the alleged abuse by Capato many years earlier. The father then informed the then-headmaster, the Rev. Giles Hayes, who in turn said he would report the concerns to the abbot.

But, according to Ginaforcaro, the Cranes never heard from the abbot about their accusations.

Six years later, Ginaforcaro said he detailed the alleged abuse in a letter to Delbarton on Dec. 7, 2010. He received a response in January 2011 from Larry Nagel, the investigator for St. Mary’s Abbey review panel.

Nagel said the Crane brothers would have to speak with the abbey’s review panel. But Ginaforcaro said the brothers declined because they did not trust the panel to be fair.

When there were no further communications, the Cranes decided to file the lawsuit.

The suit asks that the two-year statute of limitations be waived because the Cranes did not realize the extent of the damage from the alleged abuse until much later in life. State law allows such lawsuits under the so-called “delayed discovery” clause.

Gianforcaro said William Crane was “well into his 40s” when he started to analyze how he had been affected by the alleged abuse. William Crane’s self-reflection was triggered when he saw his own son was around the same age as he was when the alleged abuse by the monks happened.

But neither brother had ever told the other of the abuse. Thomas Crane only realized the extent of his damages when he also was in his 40s and was speaking with other monks at Delbarton, Gianforcaro said.

“It’s not that they forgot; it’s that they didn’t realize how it (the alleged abuse) had affected them,” Gianforcaro said. “A judge will have to decide when they (William and Thomas Crane) reasonably made the connections.”

The Crane brothers also have said they were sexually assaulted as children and parishioners at St. Joseph Church in Mendham by the church’s former pastor, James Hanley.

Hanley was defrocked in 2003 after admitting that he sexually abused a dozen youths at churches in Mendham and Pompton Plains between 1968 and 1982. He was never prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired.

Gianforcaro said the situations point to the need for a change in state law to eliminate the statute of limitations for reporting sexual abuse. He said studies have shown that one in every four women and one in every six men were sexually abused as children.

“Something has to be done to empower individuals who have been abused to come forward,” Ginaforcaro said.

Legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations has been introduced by state Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, and is pending before the Legislature.

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Suit claims Delbarton monks abused teens
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Phil Garber