Lawsuit accuses deceased Fall River priest of sexual abuse - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

Lawsuit accuses deceased Fall River priest of sexual abuse

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FALL RIVER, Mass. -

Two men have filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River and then-Bishop Daniel Cronin for allegedly failing to prevent a priest from sexually abusing them when they were altar boys.

The men, who are now in their late 40s, filed a complaint in Connecticut in January and reported being sexually abused over several years.

Although the lawsuit was filed in January, the two men have asked the Road to Recovery, a support group for survivors of sexual assault, to speak on their behalf because they now want to make the suit known to the public.

"We're here (Tuesday) to congratulate, to support and encourage two very courageous men who have said to themselves enough is enough," said Robert Hoatson, of Road to Recovery.

The alleged victims accuse the now-deceased Monsignor Maurice Souza of sexually assaulting them while he was a priest and pastor at St. Anthony's Parish in East Falmouth.

According to court documents, the abuse took place in the 1970s and 1980s when the men were 9 and 10 years old. The abuse continued into their late teens, the documents said.

According to the complaint, the abuse took place on church property, Souza's home in Taunton and hotels when they traveled for athletic events.

The Diocese of Fall River oversaw St. Anthony's Parish. The alleged victims accuse Cronin and the diocese for allowing Souza to be a sexual predator.

"Why nothing was done was because nothing was brought to the diocese," said John Kearns, a spokesman for the diocese.

The church said Souza died in 1996 and the men came forward 16 years after his death.

Kearns said the diocese was in mediation talks with the men until March 2013, but that the talks ended.

"We don't know what happened again. Monsignor Souza is dead. We tried to resolve it. We wanted to resolve it," he said.

The group hopes the courts will validate the men's claims.

"Whatever resources are necessary to get these men whole again, that should be given to them," Hoatson said.

Kearns said all allegations are reviewed and forwarded to the district attorney's office. He said these are the only abuse complaints they've received against Souza.

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