Former priest settles sexual abuse suit

A former Roman Catholic priest has settled a lawsuit alleging that he later sexually abused a 14-year-old student student in New York and Boston, the former student’s attorney said Wednesday, as reported by the Times-Picayune and nola.com.

Sean Leo Rooney served on the faculty at Archbishop Shaw High School from 1975 until 1979.

The lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian of Boston, said the former student disclosed Rooney’s abuse in August 2012. The acts occurred in Boston and New York. Rooney was a teacher at Goshen Junior Seminary in New York from 1979 through 1981, where he befriended the boy and encouraged the youth’s interest in photography, Garabedian said.

The student, now 48, said Rooney fondled and masturbated him while traveling on a bus for a school trip in Massachusetts. Rooney also was accused of removing the boy’s clothes, touching his buttocks and genitals and masturbating on the victim while at the seminary in New York, according to the lawsuit.

Garabedian said the case was settled with Salesian Society Inc. in New York for “six figures.” The student also suffered abuse by two other priests, the attorney said.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests announced the settlement Wednesday and asked the Archdiocese of New Orleans to issue a public call for information about anyone who may have been harmed by Rooney. The settlement also was published on the BishopAccountability.org website.

Rooney could not be immediately reached. A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said she was checking on Rooney’s tenure at Shaw.

Ordained in 1959, Rooney was a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco order. In addition to working in Marrero, he worked in Birmingham, Ala., Boston, New York and Indiana. He served for 50 years before he was defrocked in 2008, according to the Bishop Accountability website.

Rooney’s name was added to the website’s national database, which makes public the names of accused religious. The Survivors Network, an advocacy group for victims, also added Rooney to its list of offenders.

“We hope that anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Rooney — or any cleric — will find the courage to speak up, get help, expose wrongdoers, protect others and start healing,” said the group’s director, David Clohessy.

Rooney could face criminal charges in Massachusetts, Garabedian said, adding that “if he’s alive, he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“My client should be proud. He has empowered himself and made the world a safer place for children,” Garabedian said.

He also implored the Archdiocese of New Orleans to report any criminal activity involving Rooney to the state attorney general’s office and the public so that the victims may get therapy and counseling.

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