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Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Mother files lawsuit
over sex abuse
of altar boy by
church employee

By Harold Morse

A civil suit filed yesterday seeks damages from a Catholic layman convicted earlier of sex abuse against an altar boy.

The suit is filed by the boy's mother on behalf of her son, the altar boy, and also her daughter.

The suit says: "The two children were victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by defendant Manuel Feliciano."

Feliciano was the sacristan at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at 800 Kaheka St. in Honolulu. The sacristan is a layman employed by the church who is responsible for training altar servers.

The suit says the sex abuse occurred in or about 1994 and 1995. The suit claims Feliciano also is believed to have "acted out sexually with at least one other boy," who disclosed the misconduct to church officials in 1997.

"The diocese has not been served with the complaint yet so we cannot comment on it at this time," said Patrick Downes, spokesman for the Catholic diocese. "Nevertheless we in no way condone such alleged behavior."

He said Feliciano no longer works at Sts. Peter and Paul and has not worked there for more than a year.

"When we find out more about the case, we'll be issuing some kind of statement," Downes said.

On Aug. 16, Feliciano entered guilty pleas to four counts of second-degree sex assault and two counts of third-degree sex assault for sex abuse of the boy only, named as J.J., the suit says. Feliciano has not yet been sentenced.

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo and "John Does No. 1-20" also are named as defendants.

The suit accuses the bishop of a "breach of fiduciary duty to employ persons who will not harm parish children, to supervise employees appropriately and to take reasonable and foreseeable precautions arising out of Feliciano's activities."

The suit further claims the bishop failed to take action after the other boy reported being abused in 1997.

The boy, J.J., is now 16, and the girl, B.J., is now 12, the suit says.

The suit says Feliciano began training J.J. at age 10 as an altar server and that B.J. "thereafter developed great admiration, trust, reverence, respect, obedience and religious obedience to Feliciano."

The suit says Feliciano began "grooming" them. "Grooming is essential to overcome a child's natural reluctance to submit to an adult's sexual advances," it adds.

"Defendant Feliciano had sexual contact with Plaintiff J.J."

The suit adds that in 1994 to 1995, when B.J. was between ages 6 and 7, after a lengthy presexual grooming period, Feliciano had sexual contact with her.

The suit said Feliciano used psychological manipulation to cause the children to remain silent about the sex activities.

The entire experience caused deep-seated psychological injuries to the victims, the suit says.

It adds that in or about April 1995, the children's mother was preparing to move from Hawaii and that Feliciano became depressed. The boy refused to see or talk to Feliciano, the suit says. Feliciano then started to call the boy at home, at times causing the boy to cry, the suit says.

"Feliciano became demanding of J.J.'s time. Feliciano appeared jealous because J.J. chose to spend his last few weeks in Hawaii with his friends rather than with Feliciano. Feliciano pleaded with J.J. to spend time with him," according to the suit.

After the mother and children moved to Missouri, evidence surfaced involving Feliciano and the other boy.

In March 1998, the boy and girl entered a residential treatment facility for behavior and family problems. Both later reported having been abused by Feliciano. J.J. admitted other sex activity and now is in a juvenile sex- offender program.

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