A lawsuit recently filed in Staten Island alleges that former priest Ralph LaBelle sexually abused a boy after providing him with beer and hockey tickets, according to the Staten Island Advance. The lawsuit, one of several alleging that LaBelle molested parishioners, also names the Archdiocese of New York and St. Clare’s Roman Catholic Church in Great Kills, Staten Island.
According to the lawsuit, LaBelle’s abuse began in or around 1987, when the plaintiff was 11 years old, and continued roughly “a dozen times” over a period of two years, per the AP, which cites the complaint’s allegations: “LaBelle was a sexual predator and was engaged in a sexually inappropriate relationship with plaintiff… LaBelle was a trusted authority figure within the church and community … [and] took advantage of the status and credibility afforded him by St. Clare’s and the Archdiocese of New York and exploited his position to gain plaintiff’s trust and abuse him.” The lawsuit goes on to allege that the Archdiocese of New York “took no steps” to stop LaBelle’s actions.
The plaintiff alleges in the lawsuit, which was filed pseudonymously, that the alleged abuses resulted in “emotional and psychological trauma and humiliation,” which caused him to struggle with drug addiction. The Archdiocese did not comment on the allegations, but told the Staten Island Advance that it “takes all allegations of sexual abuse seriously.”
As the pseudonymous plaintiff told the Staten Island Advance, this case is one of several filed against Ralph LaBelle. Victims of child sexual abuse in New York were recently provided an opportunity to sue their abusers even if the statute of limitation has passed, thanks to the Child Victims Act, whose window to file lawsuits was extended until August 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic. It permits survivors of child sexual abuse “to sue their alleged abuser any time before they turn 55,” according to the Staten Island Advance, which notes that numerous lawsuits were filed in Staten Island alone against “Roman Catholic schools and churches, the Boy Scouts, a youth athletic institution and even one man’s parents.”
In the case of this lawsuit against Ralph LaBelle, the plaintiff alleges that the priest “first approached him” in a public school playground near St. Clare’s R.C. Church. The plaintiff alleges that LaBelle groomed him and other children, among other things, by offering them “Communion out of the back of his white Mazda van,” bringing them to a vacation home, buying the plaintiff beer, giving him gifts such as sports tickets, and taking him to a hockey game.
According to the Staten Island Advance, at least three other individuals have sued the Archdiocese of New York and alleged that Ralph LaBelle abused them while he was the priest at St. Clare’s Roman Catholic Church. One plaintiff alleged that the priest abused him when he was about six years old in or around 1979; another alleged that he abused him when he was 13-16 years old in the mid-1980s.
More information is available via the Staten Island Advance.