By David Brand
A man who was sexually abused in kindergarten, first and second grade is suing the priests who he says molested him and the Middle Village church that failed to protect him.
The civil complaint against St. Margaret’s Church, Father James Collins, various “John Doe” defendants and the Brooklyn Diocese was one of six complaints filed in Queens Supreme Court on Wednesday, the first day of the state’s Child Victims Act. That law took effect Wednesday and opened a one-year “look-back window” that allows victims of abuse to sue their abusers and the institutions that abetted them, no matter when the abuse occurred.
For Thomas Belcastro, the alleged sex abuse began in 1982 when he was just a 5-year-old kindergartner at St. Margaret’s. That year, various priests and seminary students began to sexually abuse Belcastro, according to the complaint.
The next year, Belcastro encountered Father James Collins, a priest at the parish who has been sued several times for sexual abuse. Collins was defrocked by the Catholic Church.
Collins sexually abused Belcastro from 1983 to 1987 — even after Belcastro transferred from St. Margaret’s in 1985, the complaint states.
The Brooklyn Diocese and St. Margaret’s failed in their duty to protect Belcastro from “Defendants John Does and Father Collins’ sexual deviancy and the consequent damages,” the complaint continues.
Defense attorney Samantha Breakstone represents Belcastro and said filing the lawsuit and identifying himself as a plaintiff has helped Belcastro’s healing process.
“It’s a way to take back the power he lost along the way,” Breakstone said.
She said Belcastro’s courage and commitment to seeking justice motivated her and her firm Weitz and Luxenberg to file his complaint on the first day under the new law. Weitz and Luxenberg will file roughly 1,300 child sex abuse cases statewide under the CVA, she said.
“He can’t change certain things about his life, [but] he won’t be the same vulnerable child,” she said. “It’s a noble pursuit and something I’m absolutely happy to be a part of.”
Collins and St. Margaret’s have faced numerous allegations of child sex abuse, including a $300 million lawsuit brought by a victim of child sex abuse in 2002. That year, the Brooklyn Diocese removed Collins after an internal investigation corroborated the claims of abuse.
The Brooklyn Diocese declined to t comment on pending litigation.
Five other lawsuits were also filed under the CVA in Queens Supreme Court Wednesday.
Elmhurst Hospital and Rockefeller University Hospital are each named as defendants.
Two separate plaintiffs name St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows as a defendant.