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Eight civil suits filed against Phila. Archdiocese for alleged priest sex abuse (UPDATED)

The complaints were filed Tuesday morning, naming church officials and seven priests as defendants.

Eight civil complaints have been filed today against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by alleged victims of priest sexual abuse.

The complaints were filed on behalf of nine alleged victims. The defendants include seven individual priests accused of the abuse: Edward Avery, Robert Brennan, Francis Feret, Joseph Gallagher, John Mulholland, John Schmeer and Francis Trauger. Also named as defendants are Archbishop Charles Chaput, his predecessor Cardinal Justin Rigali and Monsignor William Lynn, the former secretary of clergy.

The suits were filed by Jeff Anderson and Associates, the leading firm for victims of clergy sex abuse, which is already representing plaintiffs in eight other civil suits against the Archdiocese.

"There is one conspiracy in the city of Philadelphia for child sexual abuse of children and it's a conspiracy of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia," attorney Marci Hamilton said during a press conference. "These brave survivors have come together today in order to make the point, all at once, that it must stop. The coverup, the incompetence in the handling of reports of abuse must stop."

Only one of the accused priests, Robert Brennan, is still in active ministry. Brennan has been a chaplain at Camilla Hall, a retirement home in Malvern, since 2004. The others have either retired or were removed.

Three of the nine alleged victims used their real names in the complaints, which were filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. They were moved to come forward after Lynn was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child in June.

One of those defendants, Michael McDonnell, claimed he was abused by Schmeer and Trauger at St. Titus School in East Norriton over a two-year period.

"It may have affected my mind, it may have affected my soul and it certainly affected my life actions during the last 32 years, but it cannot touch my heart," McDonnell said, noting that he has dealt with mental health issues, deep personalization disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction since the alleged abuse.

Each of the cases has exceeded the criminal statute of limitations but not the civil limit, Hamilton said.

Meanwhile, Lynn's attorneys have filed an appeal and are seeking probation for the former cleric until the appeal is heard. In a filing on Monday, Lynn's attorneys also claimed that Rev. Edward Avery, a co-defendant of Lynn, did not even know his accuser, but pleaded guilty to avoid facing a harsher sentence.

 
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