Abuse payments questioned after statement in Rutherford church bulletin
He was adopted through Catholic Charities in Nova Scotia, Canada, but ironically, Stephen Marlowe alleges he grew up to suffer sexual abuse at the hands of a priest at St. Mary Church in Rutherford, where he was a middle school-aged altar boy in the 1970s.
Marlowe, who filed an amended civil lawsuit in Bergen County Superior Court, naming the Rutherford church, the Archdiocese of Newark, Father David A. Ernst and two archbishops, says that the church is making untrue claims in its bulletin regarding sex abuse claims and financial settlements.
The bulletin states that “Although the archdiocese, parishes and schools pay premiums to purchase insurance, no parish or school assets, archdiocesan assets or annual appeal or other fundraising collections are used to pay civil claims related to abuse cases.”
Marlowe is skeptical.
“When I was in mediation [with the Archdiocese], their lawyer told me all settlements are divided between insurance company money and the Archdiocese, 60/40 split, so where is the Archdiocese getting the money from? It’s not falling from the sky. I believe it comes from parishioner donations,” Marlowe said.
However, spokesperson Jim Goodness said this information is incorrect. “The funds come 100 percent from insurance coverage,” Goodness said.
A Hoboken resident, Marlowe, who has struggled with depression, notes that feelings of anger resurface whenever he reads updates about sex-abuse claims tied to Catholicism — jarring his memory back to the abuse he alleges at the hands of Father Ernst, who was among nine priests named in sexual abuse allegations and tied to a $1 million settlement in 2004.
“The bulletin was a big trigger, and doing it in my mom’s church made me angry,” Marlowe says. “[The archdiocese] has treated me fairly, even though I get angry. They verbally agreed to pay for my therapy indefinitely, so they’re treating me fairer.”
Part of Marlowe’s mediation agreement with the archdiocese includes payment for lifetime therapy. Marlowe noted that the archdiocese stopped paying his therapy bills but then claimed this was due to a billing error. Payments have since resumed. Marlowe, who suffered physical injuries and mental and emotional distresses, identified himself publicly in October 2014 to pressure lawmakers to end the statute of limitations on civil cases, currently set at two years, stemming from sex abuse and assaults. He says he struggled for many years before coming forward. The statute of limitations for criminal cases was lifted in 1996, but Ernst died in 1988, so he would not be subject to criminal charges. Marlowe’s civil case may not be heard because of the statute. Also named in the civil lawsuit are former archbishops Peter Leo Gerety and Theodore Edgar McCarrick. In mediation, Marlowe claims he asked for $100,000-$150,000 plus Father Ernst’s personnel file, but claims he was turned down because the archdiocese told him there was “no smoking gun” in it.
“Father Ernst is dead, so I would need a special prosecutor to go after the Archdiocese under RICO statute, if I could get the personnel records,” Marlowe says.
However, his therapy is a lifelong need so he can deal with his struggles. “They started paying my therapy bills as soon as I went to them, in 2010,” Marlowe says.
He was connected with victim advocate Wendy Pierson, who got him into therapy. “It saved my life. There were several times I was suicidal and very depressed. My therapist, Jack Egan, got me through the darkest times of my life. I would be dead without the therapy,” Marlowe says. “I had a breakdown, got locked up in a hospital for 13 days after I walked into traffic and got into a fight, took my clothes off except for pants and said ‘somebody please kill me.’ They got me on meds that work well so I’m more coherent. I still get depressed and angry though.”
Marlowe, a former reporter who now works as a freelance TV and camera operator and director, has no health insurance, and says he recently got a $20,000 bill from St. Barnabus in Brick Township, for the 13 days he spent in the hospital He hopes the Archdiocese picks up the tab for his short-term-care stay.
“I am on antidepressants prescribed by a psychologist. But this is my third hospitalization,” he said.
Marlowe was hospitalized in 2006, 2010 and 2014. “I go in and sober up off drugs [marijuana] and alcohol, but I’ve been drug free for a year or two now. The downward spiral exists, mostly in marijuana and alcohol,” Marlowe said.
Recalling the abuse that occurred in the 1970s for around two years when he was 11-12, he continued to go to church.
“My parents were strict Catholics and went to church every Sunday, so I always blocked [the abuse] out. Then 30 years later it came up,” Marlowe, who will be 49 in February, said.
Despite his lifelong struggle stemming from sexual abuse, Marlowe says he is lucky. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Kean College, where he graduated in 1991. He was married once, but it only lasted six months.
“I have had great careers, family and friends. I worked as a reporter for eight years with the South Bergenite, the Herald and the Record. I’m a good, happy person, but I get angry when I hear the reports coming out of Boston, Chicago, Ireland and other areas,” he said regarding sex-abuse claims in the Catholic church. “Father Ernst died, and the Catholic church keeps bashing victims, but we were abused.”
Under a Bishop Accountability database of publicly accused priests in the United States, there are several priests accused or convicted of sex crimes at the St. John Vianney Home on Home Avenue in Rutherford. They include Peter A. Cheplic, Edward J. Eilert, John E. Komar, Robert Morel and Joseph P. Rice.