Lawsuit accuses priest of sexually abusing teen

March 12, 1994|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writer

A Roman Catholic priest who was an official at a Catholic high school in Harford County has been accused of sexually abusing a student who sought counseling after telling his family that "he was afraid that he was a homosexual."

The accusations against the Rev. Jerome F. Toohey Jr. -- former president of the board of directors of John Carroll School and a former chaplain at Calvert Hall College high school in Towson -- are contained in a multimillion-dollar civil suit filed Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court.

The suit claims Father Toohey -- known as "Father Jeff" -- "condoned" the student's "potential homosexuality" and "engaged in a course of conduct whereby he sexually, mentally, emotionally, verbally and physically abused" the teen.

The suit also names as defendants Baltimore Archbishop William H. Keeler, retired Archbishop William D. Borders and the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

In a written statement, the archdiocese said an internal investigation begun after the allegations surfaced in December shows the organization had no reason to believe Father Toohey would "act in an inappropriate manner." The investigation also found no other reports of sexual misconduct by him. The archdiocese said Father Toohey, 47, denies the allegations.

The priest, who had been an associate pastor at Baltimore's St. Francis of Assisi parish, was a chaplain at Calvert Hall from 1984 until this past December, when his "priestly powers" were suspended in the wake of the sexual abuse allegations, archdiocese spokesman Bill Blaul said. The spokesman said Father Toohey, who was ordained in 1977, has since moved out of state.

The former student, now 23, was unavailable for comment yesterday and efforts to reach his lawyer, Linda K. Boyd, were unsuccessful. The Sun does not name victims of alleged sexual abuse.

According to the suit, the student told his family in the spring of 1986 that he was "afraid that he was homosexual." His father met with Archbishop Borders, who referred the boy to Father Toohey for counseling, the suit states.

During the counseling, from 1986 to the end of 1989, the student was sexually abused in the priest's offices at John Carroll and at Calvert Hall and at his Towson home, according to the suit.

The suit charges the priest with battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. It charges the archdiocese with negligence for referring the student to the priest for counseling. In each of the suit's six counts the plaintiff asks for $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

Officials from John Carroll School and the archdiocese were unable to say yesterday how long Father Toohey had been on the school's board of directors. John Carroll Principal Robert J. Garbacik said Father Toohey has had no involvement with the school since at least 1990.

Gregory A. Szoka, a Bel Air lawyer who is on the school's board, said the president of the board acts as liaison between the

school and the archdiocese and advises the school principal on religious instruction.

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