NEW YORK — Allegations of sex abuse within the Catholic Church have been widespread for years, but it’s not often that someone from within the clergy talks about the problem.
Richard Cardillo is one of the few who will.
Cardillo was a Christian Brother — a member of the teaching order within the Catholic Church — from 1976 to 1990. He described child sex abuse as an accepted part of the culture, only spoken about in whispers.
Cardillo said the hushed conversations would include questions like, “I wonder what he did with that kid? And I wonder where he got caught? Can he keep it in his pants?”
Before joining the order himself, Cardillo said he experienced this behavior firsthand, allegedly abused by a brother on a field trip during his junior year of high school at Iona Prep in Westchester.
“He came into the bed next to me and automatically started caressing me, started rubbing me all over,” recalled Cardillo.
Cardillo is represented by Jennifer Freeman of Marsh Law Firm.
A letter from the head of the Christian Brothers sent to members in 1986 acknowledged the sex abuse problem. It called on members to be careful around children, not judge brothers who have sinned, and seek professional help if needed.
Tony Ferro, the brother who Cardillo claims molested him, is mentioned by name in the letter for ‘entering into a healing program’ at the House of Affirmation, a center for priests in need of psychological help. The center closed in 1990 amid accusations of financial impropriety and, later, claims of sex abuse within the facility.
A Christian Brothers spokesperson released the following statement to PIX11:
“The province is aware of this sex abuse claim. It was filed in 2012 as part of the notice of claim process in the province’s bankruptcy proceeding, in which he received a financial settlement. The bankruptcy proceeding was not designed to test the validity of this or other claims, but rather to establish a compensation fund for the claimants. When the province receives an abuse complaint, it implements zero-tolerance policies and protocols, which are assessed by an independent monitor, that require, among other things, the immediate removal of a brother from ministry pending the outcome of an external independent investigation. As part of its policies and deep commitment to the safety and protection of children and vulnerable adults, the province reports allegations to the appropriate authorities.”
Cardillo claims Ferro’s behavior was never truly changed. “He went from school to school to school, and nothing was ever done to stop him.”
It’s a culture that Rafael Mendoza also understands, and he’s demanding change from New York’s Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan.
Mendoza claims his freshman guidance counselor at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, Msgr. John Paddack, performed inappropriate examinations on him when he sought help for feelings of suicide.
Mendoza said Msgr. Paddack would instruct him to unbutton his shirt and unbutton his pants, and would then pull out a stethoscope for the “examination.”
“I would just like for Cardinal Dolan to do what’s right and take him out of his position,” said Mendoza.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of New York released the following statement to PIX11:
“An allegation made several years ago against Msgr. Paddack was shared with the DA, investigated by outside professionals – all former federal agents – and carefully examined by our lay review board; when the allegation was found not to have been substantiated, Msgr. Paddack was returned to ministry.
We have since heard from two attorneys who have informed us that they have clients who have additional allegations against Msgr. Paddack. We have asked for the opportunity to interview these clients; although that has not happened yet, we are hopeful it will in the near future. Once we have the details of the allegation, we will follow the same procedure – sharing with the DA, have outside investigators look into the claims, and a careful examination of the entire case by our lay review board to see if the claim is credible and substantiated.”
Attorneys for both Mendoza and Cardillo are preparing to file charges against the church under New York’s Child Victims Act.
“This is not about retribution,” said Stephen Weiss, who represents Mendoza. “This is not about money. This is about pursuit of the truth.”
Starting in August, victims will have a one-year, one-time window to file abuse claims under New York’s Child Victim’s Act, no matter when the alleged crime took place.