RRH sued over chaplain’s abuse decades ago

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A man is suing Rochester Regional Health, holding the health system accountable for sexual abuse he says he suffered decades ago at the hands of a Park Ridge Hospital Catholic chaplain.

Identified only as JVW Doe 106 in a Sept. 27 State Supreme Court complaint, the man initially encountered the former hospital chaplain, James Mulcahy, as a Park Ridge patient.

Claiming to offer spiritual guidance, Doe alleges, Mulcahy manipulated him into a long-term sexual relationship while simultaneously similarly abusing many other young males.

The complaint alleges that as a result of the hospital’s “negligence, recklessness and breaches of duty,” Doe has incurred damages including “severe and permanent psychological, emotional and physical injuries, shame, humiliation and the ability lead a normal life,” and will continue to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy and counseling.

Now called Unity Hospital, Park Ridge merged with St. Mary’s Hospital in 1997 to form the Unity Health System. The Unity system merged with the Rochester General Health System to form RRH in 2004. In merging with Unity, RRH inherited Park Ridge’s liabilities, the complaint maintains.

The complaint alleges that in his relations with Doe, Mulcahy violated more than a dozen criminal statutes including rape, sexual misconduct and sexual abuse. In the civil action against RRH, Doe seeks unspecified damages. His client agonized before deciding to file the action, says Doe’s lawyer Leander James.

The deciding factor in filing the action was not money, says James, but Doe’s hope that it would help ensure that institutions like hospitals and churches would take every possible step to prevent similar abuses from being committed in the future.

Park Ridge officials who allowed Mulcahy to serve as a chaplain knew or should have known that he was sexual predator, the complaint asserts. The Greece hospital’s officials also knew or should have known that Mulcahy—who also served as a church-affiliated youth counselor at a Livingston County church, routinely wore clerical garb and was called Father Mulcahy—was not an ordained priest, Doe’s complaint maintains.

Noting that it was partly forgoing its usual policy to refrain from commenting on pending litigation, RRH said in a statement that its first awareness of the decades-old allegations contained in the court action came this month, when it was served with the complaint. It has tasked attorneys with investigating the complaint’s allegations, the statement adds.

“RRH is committed to the safety and welfare of the members of our community and, as such, has robust policies, procedures, training and education addressing sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination and to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations (and) thoroughly investigates all allegations of abuse within our programs and facilities and makes the appropriate notifications to law enforcement and government authorities in compliance with mandatory reporting laws,” the health system said in the statement.

Mulcahy did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Doe’s complaint details Mulcahy’s alleged abuse as beginning in 1988 when Doe, who was then in his twenties, was admitted to Park Ridge after a second suicide attempt.

Strapped hand and foot to a hospital bed, Doe awakened to find Mulcahy’s “hand on his bare chest ostensibly praying.” In Mulcahy’s other hand was Doe’s suicide note, which Mulcahy assured Doe that no one else would see, the complaint states.

As a member of “a struggling blue-collar family,” raised in the Roman Catholic faith, Doe “trusted and respected (Mulcahy) as a priest (and) believed he was safe with Mulcahy as a priest,” the complaint states. 

When Doe was released to the care of his parents, the complaint adds, Mulcahy followed the family to their home where he convinced Doe and Doe’s parents that to receive further spiritual guidance and counseling, Doe should move in with Mulcahy at Mulcahy’s Livingston County home.

During an approximately one-hour drive to Mulcahy’s residence, the complaint alleges that Mulcahy encouraged Doe to put his head in Mulcahy’s lap. When they arrived, it describes Mulcahy as having “coerced” a still-weak Doe into lying in Mulcahy’s bed.

According to the court complaint, Mulcahy assured Doe that his heated waterbed was the “safest and most comfortable” place in the house. Doe continued to live with Mulcahy and continued to engage in sex with him for several years. During that extended stay, the complaint alleges, Mulcahy “routinely persuaded numerous young men and boys to live with him at their house (where) Mulcahy encouraged these young men and boys to shower together and to have sexual relations with one another.” Eventually, the complaint states, when Doe reached the age of 23, Mulcahy stopped having sex with him. Doe then attempted suicide, his third attempt. 

According to the court complaint, Park Ridge officials knew that Doe had moved in with Mulcahy. Several Park Ridge nurses, whom the complaint identifies by name, routinely visited Doe at Mulcahy’s home during Doe’s four-year stay with Mulcahy.

The complaint also alleges Mulcahy groomed Doe for sexual abuse with hypnotherapy, “putting plaintiff in a hypnotic state.” During Doe’s stay, the complaint states, Mulcahy would at times bring Doe to his two-room office suite at Park Ridge where, the complaint alleges, Mulcahy would lock the door and, while wearing a clerical collar, hypnotize and sexually abuse Doe. Mulcahy also hypnotized Doe at their Livingston County home, the complaint claims.

A Livingston County Sheriff’s report details a statement by an unidentified individual who claimed that Mulcahy, who was then serving as a religious education instructor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Mt. Morris, sodomized him from 1988 to 1992 when the complainant was around 13, warning him not to tell as it might endanger his job as an English teacher at a Livingston County high school. Mulcahy at the time routinely hosted “informal” gatherings of young men and boys at his home in Nunda, the individual told a sheriff’s investigator.

Originally filed in 2018, the complaint cites interviews conducted by an investigator identified as 0035 Huff in March 2002. The report refers to sexual-abuse allegations against Mulcahy as dating to “15 or 20 years” prior to the 2002 report. It does not explain the years-long gaps between the alleged incidents and the 2002 interviews.

In the report, the investigator states that he was able to learn that Mulcahy had taught at Mount Morris Central School from 1979 to August 1981, when he resigned, but that Mulcahy was not known to the school’s then current principal.

While the investigator could not uncover evidence that would conclusively confirm the long-past alleged sexual abuses, he quoted Steve Rapp, a Livingston County Department of Social Services caseworker, as stating that he was personally acquainted with Mulcahy and believed him to be serving as a chaplain at Park Ridge and found him to be “a little different.” The sheriff’s investigator quoted Rapp as saying that he would “not be surprised (to learn that Mulcahy) was a pedophile.”

Doe’s court complaint cites reports of abuses allegedly committed by Mulcahy in Livingston County including against a 14-year-old boy. A 1987 police report cited in the complaint graphically describes forced sexual encounters between Mulcahy and the boy.

Despite such reports and Mulcahy’s affiliation with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, neither Mulcahy nor the diocese was prosecuted because, by the time that the alleged abuses were reported, a statute of limitations had put them beyond criminal or civil action.

Doe’s current action is filed under the New York Adult Survivors Act, a 2022 law that opened a one-year window for sexual abuse victims to file claims against past abusers. That window closes Nov. 23.

The Rochester Diocese is under Bankruptcy Court protection and cannot be sued. It filed its now four-year-old Chapter 11 case a month after New York passed the now-expired Child Victims Act, which similarly opened a now closed window for victims of long-past childhood sexual abuse to pursue their abusers. More than 400 sexual-abuse survivors are claimants in the diocese’s unresolved bankruptcy.

Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]


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