J. David Enright IV (photo: New York Post)
A wealthy Manhattan socialite is planning a $5 million lawsuit against the Catholic Church, claiming his being molested by a priest at age 7 turned him into a homosexual.
J. David Enright IV, now 51, alleges he was molested as a boy at Camp Tekawitha on Lake Luzerne in upstate New York by by Father Joseph Romano, a seminarian counselor at the camp run by the Diocese of Albany.
“I believe that my life would be very different now,” Enright told the New York Post. “I’d probably be married, living in Greenwich, with four children in boarding school. Romano bent my life.”
Enright says Romano, who was 21 in 1961, took him behind a cabin after dinner and evening prayers to molest him. He says the sexual contact occurred up to seven more times, lasting into the following summer.
He’d “explain to me that this was a rite of passage,” Enright told the paper, noting he recalls the “devastating” abuse every day of his life.
Enright, a descendant of Albany’s aristocratic Van Rensselaer and de la Grange families, made millions in 1982 as an advertising executive for the Broadway production of “42nd Street.”
“I had a completely straight life in business, socially on Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue,” he said, adding he did date women in the 1980s. “Then there was the other world, which was slinking around in Greenwich Village gay bars, finding mates.”
In addition to Romano, Bishop Howard Hubbard and the Albany Diocese have been named as as defendants in the planned suit.
For years, Enright was under the impression he might have been the sole molestation victim of Romano, but he was angered last month when he learned two other children are possible abuse victims of the 65-year-old retired priest who now lives in Florida, denying the allegations.
Some 20 priests have been removed from ministering in the Albany diocese since 1950 for allegedly abusing minors, and Romano is among four clerics now challenging his ouster through a secretive tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church.
The trials have no face-to-face confrontations between priests and their accusers, and are often conducted with paper submissions.
Rev. Tom Reese, former editor of the Jesuit magazine America, says the sex-abuse scandal involving hundreds of priests across the U.S. is forcing forced church officials to rethink how accused priests are dealt with.
“Cases are solved quickly on ‘Law and Order,’ where you have police, lawyers and judges,” Reese told the Albany Times Union. “We don’t have those things in the Catholic Church. And then the American justice system washed its hands and said, ‘We aren’t doing anything.’ So, with no experience, the church had to step in and build a system from scratch.”
“You can either line (priests) up and shoot them, or try to establish a system that’s just,” Reese said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”
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