Camden diocese, accuser reach deal in clergy sex abuse case

Repressed memory cited in 2012 lawsuit

Courrier-Post/November 19, 2013

By Jim Walsh

The Diocese of Camden and a Ohio man have agreed in principle to settle a lawsuit over alleged incidents of clergy sex abuse.

Mark Bryson sued the diocese in January 2012, alleging he was molested as a child by a parish priest, the late Joseph Shannon, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Camden’s Cramer Hill section.

The tentative settlement was announced as the two sides sparred in court over Bryson’s claim of repressed memory, a key element in setting a legal deadline for Bryson’s suit.

Bryson, born in 1961, said he was assaulted as a first-grader at St. Anthony of Padua’s parish school. He claimed to recall the abuse in February 2010 after seeing someone who reminded him of Shannon.

The diocese challenged the validity of repressed memory and argued it should not be required to defend itself over incidents that allegedly occurred decades before.

The conflicting claims were the subject of an ongoing hearing before U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle in Camden. His ruling would have determined whether the two-year statute of limitations for the lawsuit began when Bryson’s memory returned or, in the diocese’s view, when he turned 18.

Simandle heard testimony over four days and scheduled another session for Monday before the tentative agreement was announced.

A diocesan spokesman declined comment. Bryson’s attorney could not be reached Tuesday.

A lawyer for the diocese, William DeSantis of Cherry Hill, disclosed the development in a letter Monday to Simandle.

Shannon, removed from the ministry in 1990, was the subject of four sex-abuse complaints, according to the diocese. He died Sept. 19 at 87 after spending about 20 years at a Missouri facility for troubled priests.

Shannon was accused in at least three previous lawsuits of assaulting boys. The diocese made payments to settle those suits but admitted no wrongdoing.

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