A Baltimore County man in his 40s is suing the Archdiocese of Baltimore for an undisclosed amount of money, alleging negligence by the Roman Catholic Church after what he claims were years of sexual molestation by one of its priests.
The lawsuit, filed in Delaware, alleges that the Rev. Michael L. Barnes abused the plaintiff while he was a minor at the St. Clare School in Essex. The suit names Barnes, the school and St. Clare Roman Catholic Church as co-defendants.
Barnes, who left the priesthood in 1988 but was employed by the Archdiocese of Washington as lay director of adult faith formation at a Rockville church as recently as January, could not be located Friday.
According to the suit, the abuse began in 1977, when the alleged victim was 12 years old, and lasted for five years. According to the suit, much of the alleged molestation occurred in Rehoboth Beach and Fenwick Island, Del. The plaintiff, who could not be reached for comment on Friday, says Barnes gave him alcohol and pornography, engaged in mutual masturbation with him and performed oral sex on him.
A church spokesman said the archdiocese contacted the alleged victim in 2002 amid a general review of internal files for reports of possibly inappropriate relationships involving priests, but the man was adamant that he had not been abused. Spokesman Sean Caine said the archdiocese didn't hear from him again until December 2008, when it received a letter from his attorney alleging the abuse.
Caine said the archdiocese offered to pay for counseling and to mediate with a judge on a settlement, but the plaintiff refused. The archdiocese also notified the Maryland state's attorney and publicized the allegations in The Catholic Review and church bulletins in the parishes in which Barnes worked, with the request that victims and others with knowledge of any abuse report it to civil authorities and the archdiocese.
Caine said the archdiocese would ask the Delaware court to dismiss the lawsuit because the archdiocese doesn't operate in that state.
The lawsuit was announced by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests at a news conference Friday outside the archdiocese's downtown headquarters.
"The victim wants restitution for the things that have happened in his life. He was a good student prior to being abused," SNAP spokesman David Lorenz said. "His life kind of spiraled down after that."