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Lawsuit Alleges Decades of Sexual Abuse in Archdiocese of Washington

The Archdiocese of Washington is facing a lawsuit that accuses Roman Catholic officials of allowing clergy to sexually abuse children for many years.
The lawsuit was filed on Monday in Prince George’s County Circuit Court, one day after Maryland’s Child Victims Act took effect, lifting the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases. The lawsuit was brought by three survivors of alleged abuse from Maryland counties who were between 9 and 12 years old when the abuse occurred. Using pseudonyms, the survivors claim that various clergy members assaulted them.
One survivor, referred to as John Doe, alleges that he was abused by the Rev. Michael Mellone and Deacon Lawrence Bell at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church and its school in Gaithersburg. Another survivor, known as Richard Roe, states that an unnamed priest assaulted him in the mid-1960s. The third survivor, Mark Smith, claims that he was raped by the Rev. Robert J. Petrella in the 1960s. Petrella was convicted of child abuse in 1997 and defrocked in 2003.
The lawsuit accuses the archdiocese of concealing and facilitating the abuse instead of protecting and healing the victims. It seeks to certify the case as a class-action, allowing other victims to join, and demands damages in excess of $75,000, with the final amount to be determined at trial.
Two law firms filed the lawsuit, expressing hope that it will not only bring justice to their clients but also improve the quality of their lives. The Archdiocese of Washington lists 34 clergy members who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse and removed from ministry, including former archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick. In addition to this, an independent group called has published a list of 45 accused clergy members.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, expressed his regret for past acts of abuse within the Church in a letter to parishioners. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) hopes that the lawsuit will shed light on hidden information about these crimes and encourage other victims to come forward.
The lawsuit’s allegations against Father Mellone have prompted immediate repercussions. He has been ordered to leave the parish pending a review of the charges and is barred from exercising priestly ministry.
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